Playing Catch-up: How technology could put kids behind in school

Playing Catch-up: How technology could put kids behind in school

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - New research shows your children are falling behind at school even before they start, and technology is coming in the way.

PJ Henning, 3, plays like any preschooler. But, when he plays, he's actually hard at work developing his fine motor skills in the office of his occupational therapist.

Right now, his mom says his fine motor skills are behind other children his age.

"It's our hope that we give it a big push while he's little so that as he gets older and up to grade school, he'll be up to speed," said Andrea Henning, PJ's mom.

He and many other children get help twice a week from an occupational therapist, with things like cutting, coloring and gripping.

"The child needs to have the muscles in their hand to develop the skills to be able to hold writing utensils to be able to communicate in written language," said Jacob Martinez, MD, a family physician with ProMedica Physicians Group.

But challenges with fine motor skills aren't just developmental.

Technology, iPads, cell phones and television can put your child behind, and have them playing catch-up before school even starts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released its most current research in 2016, which shows technology is now causing delays.

The organization now recommends no screen time for children under two. And no more than one hour a day - supervised - for preschoolers.

"What they show is early screen time, especially under 18 months, does interfere with the development of gross and fine motor skills," said Dr. Martinez. "Getting behind early on puts these kids in a position of playing catch up throughout their academic career."

Both doctors and occupational therapists say you have to take away the technology and play with your kids.

"Really get their hands in there. Let them get messy and experiment and just have fun," said Patty Cunningham, occupational therapist at ProMedica Total Rehab Pediatrics.

For example, Cunningham says, coloring apps don't use the same important senses and skills like really coloring - grasping the crayon, touching the crayon to the paper and seeing the difference in color.

"When you don't use those skills, you dont develop those skills," said Cunningham.

Here's a great tip for your kids this summer: Make a family "media plan"

Instead of a tablet, Cunningham suggests create a busy box for your kids to use during quiet time or time when you need to get things done.

Stuff a box with paint, Play-Doh, crayons, markers and scissors. They'll be having so much fun playing, they won't realize they're actually learning.

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