Saturday, April 16, 2011

iPads and Job Security for OT's

After reading an article that some kindergarten classes in Maine, will be getting close to 300 iPads, I began to think about how this will effect the fine motor skill development of young children. And, how younger children's use of technology may provide an unfortunate sort of job security for pediatric occupational therapists. The rate of children receiving pediatric occupational therapy seems to rise year after year along with the amount of screen time for children. Check out these numbers:
1. Preschool children spend 32 hours per week with screen time (television and computer use) (1)
2. Forty percent of 3 month olds are regular viewers of screen time (1)
3. Nineteen percent of one year old's have a television in the bedroom (1)
4. Screen time for a toddler is associated with lower school achievement and decreased physical activity later in childhood (1)
5. Thanks to their parents, the average age a child gets a digital footprint is 6 months old (2)

A recent study from AVG indicated that more children are learning technology skills before life skills. Check out these numbers from a study of 2200 mothers of 2-5 year old children:
1. More kids can play with a smart phone than tie shoelaces (3)
2. More children can play a video game than ride a bicycle (3)
3. More children can open a web browser than swim unassisted (3)

What will this do to children with regards to the acquisition of motor skills and motor programs? If used in moderation, I am sure that the latest technology offers many learning opportunities for children. The key word is moderation. Considering the latest screen time statistics referenced above, moderation is obviously lacking already. Therefore, children's achievement of functional skills will most likely be delayed and some skills possibly eliminated all together. The arches of the hand can not develop properly by never picking up objects or manipulating items besides a computer mouse. Body awareness and motor planning are learned through movement. The tiny movement involed in the clicking of a mouse with the index finger does not offer any sort of motor practice or proprioceptive input. With the lack of three dimensions of computer technology, how will stereognosis develop? How will visual perceptual skills be effected? How will children develop the skills to button, zip, tie shoelaces and ride a bike? Unfortunately there's NOT an app for that! Correction there is an app for that...a referral for pediatric occupational therapy.


1. Fact Sheet Kids and Screen. Commercial Free Childhood. Retrived on the web on 4/16/2011 from

2. AVG. Would You Want a Digitial Footprint Since Birth? Retrieved on the web on 4/16/2011 from

3. AVG. Forget Swimming and Riding a Bike - Young Children Today More Likely To Have Mastereed Computer Games. Retrieved from the web on 4/16/2011 from


Natasha said...

Hi there,

I'm a second year occupational therapy student studying in New Zealand and am just exploring a few occupational therapy based blogs. I find the above article on I-pads interesting and yet very disturbing at the same time. While I understand I-pads can be really useful for those that have certain impairments and are living with a disability...But using them in kindergartens for young, healthy children?---> I have never heard of such a thing and think its totally outrageous!!

I wanted to ask you what other areas (other than fine motor skills) would the child suffer in with continued use of an I-pad in kindergartens?
I'm sure this would have huge negative consequences on all areas of the child's development, especially cognitively which could lead to great problems in the future!

Your Therapy Source Inc said...

I don't necessarily think there would be cognitive deficits from using the iPad. Children enjoy the stimulation and immediate rewards of some of the apps that teach letter writing, math skills and reading skills. I do have concern though that it would definitely effect fine motor skills, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills and bilateral coordination which in turn effect cognitive skills.

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