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EMF Studies

16 November 2016

Under-5s Glued to Screens for 4 Hours Each Day

Pre-school children are online using iPads and other
devices for an average of 71 minutes a day.
(file photo)
‘Computer literacy is important but it is being used to such an excess that it is having potentially catastrophic consequences.’

The under-5s glued to screens for four hours each day: Fears 'very worrying' figures are showing that children are becoming online addicts
by Laura Lambert, TV and Radio Reporter for The Daily Mail, 16 November 2016

  • Pre-school children are online for an average of 71 minutes a day 
  • Over half of three to four-year-olds use tablets, Ofcom figures reveal
  • Children aged five to 15 are glued to screens for five and a half hours a day 

Pre-school children are spending more than four hours a day glued to screens.

They are online – using iPads and other devices – for an average of 71 minutes a day.

But – when gaming and watching television is included – their screen time rises to four hours and 11 minutes.

For children aged five to 15 the total was even higher: five hours and 33 minutes a day.

Parenting experts said the figures from broadcasting watchdog Ofcom showed children were becoming online addicts.

‘The findings are very, very worrying,’ said Sue Palmer, a literacy adviser and author of Toxic Childhood. ‘There are so many other things that kids of that age should be doing. We have to make a real effort to get children outdoors.

‘The main problem is that screen time is substituting for vital developmental necessities like all-round physical motor skills and social and communication skills. We really need national guidelines on technology use for children.’

More than half the three- and four-year-olds used a tablet and one in six owned one. They are spending 13 minutes more online per day this year than in 2015. The majority of parents interviewed for the research claimed they struck the right balance with their children’s use of media.

But there are fears that some hand their offspring smartphones, tablets and computers as a distraction, neglecting proper parenting.

The study found the time school-age children spent watching a TV set fell last year. It’s now one hour and 56 minutes a day. They are online for longer: an average of two hours and ten minutes a day.

However, Ofcom noted that nine in ten children still watch TV regularly and it remains the device they say they would miss most.

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said he was alarmed by the research. ‘What it is indicative of is a growing addiction to digital technology, which is having a negative physiological effect on the brain,’ he added. ‘The majority of schools encourage children to use digital devices as part of learning, but they are feeding the addiction and the addiction is then going home.

‘Headteachers have told us that children seem less empathetic and have shorter attention spans than before.

‘Computer literacy is important but it is being used to such an excess that it is having potentially catastrophic consequences.’

The report said parents found managing the use of devices becomes more difficult as children get older: ‘41 per cent of parents of 12- to 15-year-olds say they find it hard to control their child’s screen time.’

YouTube, a video clip website not regulated by Ofcom, was found to be growing in importance and 87 per cent of school-age children use it. More than half of children aged ten have a mobile phone.

And the majority of those aged 12 to 15 have more than three devices. Nine per cent of them communicated via social media at 10pm and 2 per cent at midnight.

Ofcom’s director of market intelligence, Jane Rumble, said: ‘Children’s lives are increasingly digital, with tablets and smartphones commanding more attention than ever. Even so, families are finding time for more traditional activities, such as watching TV together or reading a bedtime story.’

Professor Pat Preedy, who co-leads the Movement for Learning programme, said: ‘A lack of balance and intensity of screen time damages children’s physical development, vision, and inhibits their communication, language and social interaction.

‘It could be a key factor in the isolation of young people, which can lead to mental health problems and obesity.

‘They might have hundreds of friends online but real life friends and interaction is actually very limited.

‘Young children need a secure and strong emotional attachment, you do not get that from a machine, you get that from a real person.

‘I am very concerned about the figures, because if they are online so much they are not moving and playing. And then there are the safety issues of child protection and radicalisation to think about.’

Dr Ross Cameron, an academic at Sheffield University, warned last weekend that more and more people were suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ due to the rise in digital technology.

He said: ‘The youngest generation is the most critical – they are engaging with a virtual world rather than a natural world, sitting in front of their mobile phone all day.

‘In the past they would bat a ball against a wall or go and play in the woods – that is now very rare.’


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