Kindergarten and early primary teachers have aired their concerns that the rise of touchscreen devices means more and more children are starting school lacking major skills.

A primary school teacher has said that her and her colleagues had noticed “a big decline in fine motor skills” among children arriving at prep and kindergarten.

Carolyn and her colleagues blamed their young students’ declining dexterity on their use of touchscreen devices such as tablets and smartphones, shares ABC news.

“Children are holding crayons and scissors less and making fewer things with their hands,” she said.

“We’ve noticed that sometimes, even if you pass a pencil or a paintbrush to a child, they’re not quite sure how to receive it and how to hold it.”

Paediatric occupational therapist Lisa Clark said Carolyn was not the only teacher who had noticed the trend.

“In my role I work in schools for most of the week, and we interact with teachers a lot, so these discussions are something we have all the time,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Hilary Harper.

“Both kinder teachers and also early primary teachers are feeding back to us about children’s handwriting and the concerns that they have.”

She said children who spent too much time on touchscreens did not develop the fine motor skills they needed when it came time to learn to write.

Ms Clark said many children had difficulty holding scissors, tying shoelaces or even using cutlery.

Ms Clark said parents needed to make the time for hands-on activities with their children.

Modelling with play dough was excellent for building finger strength, she said, as was crafting with scissors, beads and glue.

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  • Children under the age of 5 shouldn’t be getting screen time- that means TV, devices, anything! The occasional thing as a treat is fine, but people are using technology as a babysitter these days and surveys have proven that it has a big impact on a child’s ability to learn.


  • Crayons are so yesterday. Ok, so they’re not Steady Eddie in the fine motor skills department when they start school. They’ll catch on eventually. On a positive side young children on touch screen devices and all devices are amazing, their minds catch on very quickly on how to operate them and those types of devices are their present and future employment. More power to them and to the parents who have the foresight to see what’s ahead. “Ms Clark said many children had difficulty holding scissors, tying shoelaces or even using cutlery.” I think Ms Clark’s world is perhaps a little different to some of her young charges. Scissors are dangerous, velcro is replacing shoelaces and you don’t use cutlery to eat a hamburger.


  • Computers and the like have spell check and so many people are now terrible spellers we need to still focus on the 3 R’s .


  • Parents use technology as a babysitter tool for their children, that’s were it starts not a kindergarten or school it’s at home or out with their parents! Give them a book instead!


  • There is a place for technology and screens in schooling but more emphasis should be placed on learning to read, write and count without the use of a screen.


  • I fail to see the need for screens at school at all. I think simple pen and paper is cheaper and can be just as effective. I think it’s all a matter of trying to make things easier all the time and in doing so losing other valuable skills.


  • Everything in moderation
    I agree that it can cause problems. But activities at preschool and St home, to help fine motor skills will make a difference


  • And at the same time more and more schools make the supply and use of these devices compulsory. Heya education leaders you can’t have it both ways! Can you please just make the right call based on evidence based practise and stop adding to our children’s screen time each day?


  • I have seen a decline as well and recently when we were out saw a child playing on a phone and being spoon fed by the parent. Children need to feed themselves and focus on holding a spoon, then fork, then knife and focus on the food and company. Technology does not belong at meal times – food times.

    • The only time technology belongs at a dinner table is when a device is a persons communication device and communication system.


  • Its all about balance…. and the comment “parents need to make time for hands on activities with their children” – surely that is why you had kids – to spend time with them??


  • My 4yr old daughter has Down syndrome and her fine motor skills are bad. The tricky thing is she sticks everything in the mouth when crafting (chewing on it/eating it where possible), pencils, texture, playdough, scissors, glue, even when I’m on top of it.


  • My son doesn’t get to use a tablet or phone but he has zero interest in drawing and craft so he’s still lacking those skills. We’ve discovered setting up a canvas outside for him to paint so its a step in the right direction. Kinder will be interesting next year, that’s for sure.


  • Young children really need continued support to develop fine motor and gross motor skills. These do not develop from extended use of technology.

    • You are quite right – technology has limited opportunities to develop fine motor skills. Children require a wide range of fine motor skills activities to gain dexterity.


  • I think the school teacher is right. Using the devices is fine, as long as kids are exposed to other activities too.


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