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Excessive use of electronic devices could impact motor development in children

Children are using technological devices most of the time, modifying the manner in which they develop and improve their motor skills. This could impair their academic performance in performing activities such as balance, calculations and writing.

Bogotá D. C., 13 de julio de 2016Agencia de Noticias UN-

Scarce physical activity can produce reduced hip and shoulder muscle firmness in children. Photo: El Tiempo

Games are an opportunity for motor, social and cognitive capabilities to develop appropriately.

It is recommendable for children to carry out shoulder, elbow, hip and knee movements since early age.

Children cannot follow a short 2 minute dictation and it is hard for them to keep up with schooling demands

Increasing use of tablets, smartphones or videogame consoles in children has an impact on the matter early infants alter their game practices and acquire motor and fine skills. 

According to Angélica Alarcón Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) M.Sc. in Neurosciences, the norm is that children develop gross motor skills (shoulder, elbow, hip and knee movements) first and then fine motor skills. 

“Games are an opportunity for motor, social and cognitive skills to develop appropriately. With technological progress games are increasingly demanding more fine and coordination skills, which implies that children are skipping other developmental stages,” said Alarcon. 

Alarcón developed a study to determine how Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) affects school performance in a sample of children between 7 and 16 years of age. 

This learning disorder is characterized by a difficulty of acquiring and realizing perceptive and motor skills when performing coordinated and precise movements; furthermore children have low muscle tone and weakness. When they reach school age they are demanded skills which they have must have already developed. This hinders an appropriate accomplishment of school activities producing frustration, evasion and socialization hardships in children. 

In order to research this phenomenon Alarcón worked with 153 children from different schools in Bogotá and the municipality of Chía. She split the children between a control and a group suffering from DCD and carried out motor development assessments using bot-2 and Henderson 2 testing methods. These tests help evaluate the gross and fine motor skills of children and provide a motor development profile. Additionally she also tested hand and body coordination, strength and agility as well as dynamic and static balance. 

Difficulty in writing and assembling objects 

With the results she determined if children had DCD and discovered that 34% had this disorder and with unexpected hardships for their age for some or all of the activities. Furthermore the children also had poor academic performance according to their teachers and parents. 

The control group was children with no academic difficulties and scored well in the tests. However children in both groups did have fine motor skill difficulties such as agility, resistance, and precision as well as difficulty writing and assembling objects. 

Children were arranged in 3 age groups as follows:  between 7 and 10, between 11 and 13 and between 14 and 16. According to Alarcón the age group that had most hardships was the one between 7 and 10 years of age, which is when motor development ends and the consolidation period begins. After 10 the difficulties are more severe according to the developmental stage, which significantly affects school performance. 

More outside, less inside 

In the manual tests they assessed handling of small objects such as stringing objects, screwing nuts and assembling figures. They also observed the postures of the children in performing the activities as this denotes the stage of development they are in. 

“Children made far too many posture adjustments to carry out an activity which may show movement dissociation issues as they do not link actions with activities,” she said. 

UNal Professors, Geneticists Dr. Juan José Yunis Londoño and Psychiatrist Dr. Rafael Vásquez Rojas, also performed an assessment with the parents to determine the sensorial profile of each child, in other words how they receive and processed stimuli at the tactile, proprioceptive (movement perception in articulations and the body, auditory, vestibular (equilibrium and spatial control) and visual environment level.

Only on weekends 

On the other hand most children only go outside to a park on weekends for 1 or 2 hours with their parents making activities with gross motor skills difficult to develop. Therefore they had low proximal articular stability, i.e. low hip and shoulder firmness, additionally they have difficulty assuming a position and maintaining it and external stimuli affect their balance. 

“Children are generally sent to therapy and in consultation we see that they not only have attention and concentration issues but also have resistance and weakness problems. Based on teacher and parent reports they do not resist a short 2 minute dictation, they cannot follow the teacher and it is hard for them to engage to the levels of demand. This is due to weakness and difficulty to perform fine and gross movements due to the scarce physically activity they do which is generally replaced by playing with technological devices,” said Alarcon. 

In face of this scenario it is recommendable that children from early stages, perform gross motor activities, do outside sporting activities and diminish use of technological devices.

(Por: Fin/VC/DMH/APBL
)
N.° 97

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