A Fine Motor Mess?

I saw the advertisement below on the Long Island Rail Road this morning:


I know that ads are designed to grab our attention and provoke thought, and this one did just that. But instead of viewing Tivo's offer as an enticing opportunity to speed up television viewing by swiping past commercials, I just saw the crappy message it delivered.

Last week I spoke with a kindergarten teacher who told me that she has noticed a marked decrease in her students' fine motor skills ever since the advent and omnipresence of Ipads and other touch devices. She told me how kids are struggling to grip and utilize pencils and crayons as they simply don't have the strength and coordination to do so. She lamented that children struggle to hold a book and turn the pages!

I'm not preaching here. I know this technology is here to stay and is the new norm for today's kids. My own spend time on tablets each day, although we do our best to limit it. (I wonder why many leaders of the tech industry limit or forbid their own kids from using the very devices they peddle to us? (Even Seteve Jobs limited technology) What do they know that we don't yet? But I digress.). I'm just suggesting that we continue to give our kids (and ourselves) the opportunity to hone and refine our fine motor skills before they evaporate.

What are fine motor skills? They are precise movements of the hands, fingers, eyes, lips and mouth. Gross motor skills involve the bigger movements of the trunk and limbs and include activities such as walking, running, climbing, throwing, kicking, etc. Traditionally, physical therapists deal in the realm of gross motor skills, while occupational therapists deal with fine motor acquisition. Crossover exists between the two as both disciplines deal with human movement, which is sadly taking a hit with the progression of technology.

Why do these fine motor skills matter? This past weekend, if you live in the Northeast and have kids, you undoubtedly spent time dressing and undressing them to go out to play in the snow. Hats, gloves, buttons, buckles, laces, zippers all needed manipulation. I'm sure many of you struggled and wished your child could have taken care of it for themselves. But beyond children's ability to dress themselves lie numerous other enriching opportunities which require fine motor skills. How about the manual dexterity needed to manipulate the strings of a guitar or keys of a piano? Or the grasp needed to throw a ball? Or the ability to write with good penmanship? Or to be able to manipulate a paintbrush to create a piece of art?

Movement, both fine and gross, has helped define us for millennia. As technology moves us forward in many aspects, let's not allow it to move us backwards in others.