Kids struggling to hold pencils thanks to too much tech

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I read this over the weekend and it bothered me that they didn’t cite any actual study, or give any indication as to the scale or depth of the problem. A handful of anecdotes. Not that I don’t think this is a plausible issue, and I do have a fanatical love for the feel of IRL writing implement on tree-mash, but it dovetails so nicely with the rest of the “Screen Time” hand-wringing that it’s another one of those pop stories that is too good to source-check. It irks me as a professional involved in early childhood how quickly these things catch fire without any perspective. Also, I love my note5 with stylus…solution?

Also, at a glance, it’s just way too easy to read National Handwriting Association as National Handwringing Association

Also, Also, we all know the NHA is just a lobbying front for the pen manfacturers11!!!11! (timely!) /s


When we have kids visiting who aren’t interested in the adult conversation, we just shove them in the K’Nex room where we keep a couple of boxes of classic K’Nex parts. Some of them started pre-kindergarten and still want to throw together a few K’Nex late into high school.

It’s easy to forget the important skills when one has learned them so long ago. Eating with a fork or drawing with a crayon is not as easy as it looks, and humans have special neural and muscular abilities that let us do amazingly detailed work when we talk or manipulate things. Touch screens are great, but we can do a lot more than that.


I’m a middle school art teacher and the range of fine motor skills and grips styles amongst my students is dramatic! The thing is, by the time they get to me there is little to no chance I will be able to correct grip issues, they are too used to doing it wrong. But it means a life time of painful and in-efficient hand writing, and no chance of drawing fluency. It starts as babies, making sure kids are feeding themselves finger food, lot’s of manual manipulation toys, and play time. In early elementary hand writing and letter formation practice are hugely important! We no longer seem to care what anyone’s hand writing looks like, and it doesn’t matter, but the practice and the motor development still do matter! And before you say it doesn’t matter if not everyone can be an artist, think of the fine motor skill required of a surgeon, a person making computer chips, or a mechanic. We love to talk about the knowledge economy, but people will always need to make and do as well, I worry their are entire swaths of children who won’t have the ability to do those jobs.


and not very strong ones

(the anecdotes)

It’s not that I think these organizations don’t have a firm grasp on the issue, but they’re just failing to properly spell it out for us :slight_smile:


I’ve realized just this last week, among some friends of 30 years, that we all share a favorite middle school art teacher. I’ll just thank you for now, for being so right on. Do keep that going.


if they would just put pencil to paper we could erase all doubt.


He’s wondering where the pocket is.


This story reminds me of a little trick a Korean-American colleague showed us, said by him to be very common among South Korean school children. The trick involves gently holding a pen/pencil at one end using the tips of one’s thumb, index finger, and middle finger. With the palm facing down, the middle finger is used to quickly pivot the free end of the implement upward, flipping it into the air where it makes one tight rotation, then is re-caught by the same fingers that flipped it. The process is then repeated over and over again, all of it happening very quickly. The colleague would do this at meetings unthinkingly. I wonder now if this is a dying ‘art’ in South Korea.


You mean holding a pencil like a caveman holds a stick is not good? LOL, that was funny. Sad, but funny.


I hold my pen like I have some crippling hand ailment. Which will probably lead me into having a crippling hand ailment.


Teachers have called me weird, but if I have to do more than sign my name or write a sentence or two, I switch from the traditional grip to something that looks like this

Where I hold the pencil between my middle and index finger.


I battled with my teachers all through elementary school around the issue of how I hold a pencil. I never surrendered and to this day (I’m 48) I still hold a pencil the same way I did in pre-school.


I can’t really see the connection either. I’m not a parent, and I live in Tijuana, but I see youngsters who have lots of playtime on their parent’s phones or tablets who also have lots of playtime with toys that build up hand strength and dexterity.
That said, I was a very small child when I learned to write and still rest a writing tool against my ring finger instead of my middle finger.


Same here. I remember being forced to use some triangle thing on pens and pencils that was supposedly designed to correct my grip, but it never did because I found it painfully uncomfortable. 35+ years later and I still write and draw with my pencil resting on my ring finger gripped between my thumb and middle finger, with the index as almost a guide to make sure it doesn’t escape.

As far as I can tell it’s made absolutely no difference to my life and neither did my lack of entirely proper cursive. I’m not against teaching children the “correct” way, my half-arsed cursive is still better than printing everything letter by letter, but there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to get hung up on such things if their handwriting is legible and not causing actual issues or injury in the long term.


My Aunt (a baby boomer who only uses technology when she has to) and I were discussing this very issue with me positing that in some not-too-distant future children won’t be able to write by hand at all. She, a lover of written to do lists, responded: “but how will they make lists?” and I responded “on their phones,” and we laughed heartily.


I’ve just now realized i have a non-traditional grip four-finger contact. Mostly as normal, but with the top of the ring finger under the implement and the little finger under that one. The index and middle overtop, with thumb where expected. I upstroke partly by pushing my ring finger up. Huh.


Likewise. I can’t remember what the issue was but I had to use that stupid thing for a while. My handwriting was fine (it’s atrophied into uselessness after 30 years on a keyboard, though) without it, all it did was make it uncomfortable.


As a leftie with vivid memories of a grade school textbook that tried to tell me I was holding my pen “wrong” when it was blatantly clear to me that the author of the text had never actually written anything with their left hand and had no fucking clue how to do so (with drawings showing a left hand holding a pen in an exact mirror image of how the right hand was supposed to hold it, AS FUCKING IF), I take sharp exception to claims from educators that there is a “wrong” way to hold a writing instrument.

As for the original article, I call massive bullshit. I can see how kids who have been drawing on their tablets instead of on paper might struggle to accustom themselves to using a pencil when they enter school. However, given the history of baseless fear mongering about the debilitating effects of new technology ever since our ancestors started tying sharp rocks to sticks, I very strongly doubt that there’s anything whatsoever to the claims being made here.