- When children use touchscreens they are not building up muscles and neural connections needed for writing – which means they suffer from decreased muscle strength and delayed development
- As touchscreens are new, no one knows what health consequences will be
- New guidelines suggest toddlers should not be allowed to use them at all
By EMMA INNES
PUBLISHED: 09:56 EST, 18 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:37 EST, 18 November 2013
Parents who let their toddlers play with iPads could be damaging their hands and fingers, an expert has warned.
Occupational therapist Lindsay Marzoli says that excessive screen time could cause children long term damage.
This is because when they are using touchscreens, they are not building up the muscles needed for writing.
Ms Marzoli, of the Learning and Therapy Corner in Maryland, U.S., told CBS Local: ‘If they are always on the iPad and not actually doing those paper and pencil activities that they should still be doing, those muscles are going to remain weaker.
‘What we’re seeing is a lot of children coming in with some motor delays, some decreased muscle strength in areas.’
Experts say the problem is that the technology is so new researchers do not know what damage it might cause in the long run.
Dr Timothy Doran, a paediatrician at Greater Baltimore Medical Centre, told CBS Local: ‘Unlimited use, three to four hours of iPad use on their own — where the parents aren’t involved — seems to me that you are flirting with developmental danger.’
New guidelines from the American Academy of Paediatrics state children should not be allowed more than two hours screen time a day.
They also say children under the age of two should not spend any time in front of a screen.
Finally, the guidelines suggest televisions, tablets and computers should be kept out of children’s rooms.
The research is not the first to suggest excessive screen time can harm children’s health.
Research commissioned by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board suggested youngsters face a ‘healthcare time bomb’ of neck and back pain linked to the use of computers, video games and smartphones.
The research showed nearly three quarters of primary school children, and two thirds of secondary school students, have reported back or neck pain within the last year.
Physiotherapist Lorna Taylor said: ‘Modern lifestyles and the increase in technology are having detrimental effects on our children’s musculoskeletal health and, if not addressed in school and at home now, will have far reaching effects for our children, the future working generation and society.
‘It’s vital we instill good habits and provide resources so children can be comfortable, be able to concentrate, reach their full potential and work and play sport as they decide, and not be limited by preventable disability and a life in pain.’