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Long live pen and paper: how tablets and devices hinder children’s creative and emotional development

Integrative Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, Liz Ritchie and Youcef Bendraou, stationery designer at Pukka Pads, discuss the impact technology has on children’s creative development and future academic success

A recent discussion between Integrative Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, Liz Ritchie and stationery designer Youcef Bendraou from Pukka Pads has revealed new professional opinion, that confirms that pen and paper remain the most effective learning and development tool for children, even with continuing digital and technological advances.

Throughout Liz’s 27 years as a therapist, she has seen the slow and steady impact the excessive use of technology is having on children’s creative development, communication and academic success, causing behavioural issues, sleep problems and an inability to socially interact. Liz explained: “If children are overly dependent on technology, it actually precludes any prospect of developing their critical thinking skills, therefore hindering their moral development and negatively impacting their academic success.

“It is through writing with pen and paper that children learn the ‘real-life’ skills of how to be creative. When using a computer, children don’t have to think if their handwriting is legible or if they need to improve their handwriting. Also, by using a laptop or tablet to write, there are many shortcuts which limit children’s spelling and grammar knowledge.

“Handwriting using pen and paper gives us a sense of identity and an awareness of what we can achieve. By using pen and paper we are more in tune with what we’re good at and what needs more work. This is motivating to make us more ambitious individuals in later life.

“From a therapeutic perspective, journaling, drawing and opting to use pen and paper over a screen definitely helps mitigate the risks outlined above as these activities provide us with a creative outlet to explore other ways of communicating and developing as children.”

Pukka Pads has been one of the UK’s leading stationery suppliers for over 20 years and its products are designed to meet the education and development needs of pupils and schoolchildren across the country.

Youcef Bendraou, senior graphic designer at Pukka Pads, said: “Stationery provides children with the tools needed to connect themselves to their ability to create. It is through drawing, colouring and undertaking arts and craft sessions, that children develop their sense of self. This is how they discover what they like, what they’re good at and what they’re not, rather than sitting under an umbrella of tech which gives us no individuality.

“Putting pen to paper remains a critical part of a child’s development and it is so important that parents encourage the use of traditional writing, drawing and creating outside of school to help aid children’s learning. Design has played a critical role in product development at Pukka Pads as we aim to create products that create an enjoyable writing or drawing experience and more recently, with our understanding of how important pen and paper is to creativity and sense of self, have developed products that empower our customers to embrace their individuality.

We’re all programmed to be creative but technology doesn’t give us creative freedom, we are guided by a format, templates and software, meaning we have to adjust our mindset to work with a technological framework. Our human instinct is to be creative, not technology literate, so that is why it feels far more natural to put pen to paper.”

Liz Ritchie concluded: “There certainly is a creative deficiency for children who are connected to modern technology and this also presents itself in emotional intelligence. Children’s emotional development is compromised because of what is required on a cognitive level. If dependent on technology, children can then only think things through on a very superficial level as that’s all that tech requires. Since tech doesn’t require any emotion at all, the younger generation is most definitely struggling with a deficit in emotional skills.

“In my role as a therapist, I see this playing out with younger people who have very little emotional awareness. It is therefore imperative that a broader awareness of technology’s impact is shared and commonly talked about, along with the creative activities such as drawing and writing, which all should be encouraged to help mitigate these risks and make children put down the screen.”

Youcef Bendraou added: “Many of us will be familiar with the exciting appeal a fresh, clean page of paper or new notebook can evoke. The sense of opportunity created by the freedom to create can have a physical and profound effect on us as humans. We’re calling on parents to encourage their children’s love for tactile creating and allow them to experience the joy in being creative, for their own development and enjoyment.”

Leading stationery brand, Pukka Pads, recently reported a significant 15% year-on-year turnover increase from 2020 to 2021. This is the most significant growth the business has seen in several years, proving that pen and paper isn’t dead. Pukka Pads was founded in 1999 and remains the brand of choice for stationery users across the country. Although the company is famed for its classic metallic A4 jotta, the leading stationery brand has more than 1,000 stationery products that sit across more than 30 dynamic ranges.

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