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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 10:46 GMT
Thumbs take over for text generation
Children using mobile phones
Children use their thumbs without thinking
Children who grow up using mobile phones and gaming consoles are changing the shape and dexterity of their fingers and thumbs.

The thumbs of teenagers and young adults have become more widely used than index fingers, and as a result, have become more muscled and dextrous, say researchers.

Young people are now even using thumbs instead of fingers for common tasks such as pointing or ringing doorbells, they say.

Discovering that the younger generation has taken to using thumbs in a completely different way... is particularly interesting

Dr Sadie Plant, research co-ordinator
The changing habits have become so noticeable that in Japan, young people have been nicknamed the "thumb tribe" or "thumb generation".

The change affects those who have grown up with hand-held devices where the thumbs are used for keying in text messages and e-mails and for accessing the internet.

Two thumb users

Experts claim it proves technology is causing changes that previously happened over generations.

Dr Sadie Plant of Warwick University's Cybernetic Culture Research Unit said: "The relationship between technology and the users of technology is mutual.

"Discovering that the younger generation has taken to using thumbs in a completely different way and are instinctively using thumbs where the rest of us are using our index fingers is particularly interesting."

In her research, Dr Plant noticed that while those less used to mobile phones used one or several fingers to access the keyboard, younger people used both thumbs ambidextrously, barely looking at the keys as they made rapid entries.

Dr Plant, who has written three books on the social impact of technology, spent six months collecting data on hundreds of mobile phone users in the world's largest cities, including London, Beijing, Chicago and Tokyo.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Business
Mobile phone firm to employ children
01 Feb 02 | Health
Vibrating games health warning
20 Dec 00 | Health
Computer games pose injury risk
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