Children Have Spent A YEAR Watching Screens By The Age Of Seven

14/08/2014 17:03 | Updated 20 May 2015

Girl using tablet computer

Children are becoming addicted to screens, with some spending as many as six hours a day glued to TVs and computers, a Conservative MP has warned.

Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and a former Conservative shadow minister for children, made the comments in an essay for charity 4 Children.

"It has been estimated that by the time children born today turn seven, they will have spent an entire year watching some form of small screen," he warned in the essay, entitled The state our children are in.

And, even more worryingly, he cites research by psychologist Dr Aric Sigman which indicates that today's children - many of whom have access to as many as five screens - risk becoming dependant on technology.

​"What is potentially worrying about this is that internet addiction causes changes in the brain, like those seen in alcoholics and cocaine addicts," Loughton said in the essay, a wide-ranging philippic criticising everything from the State's attitude to childhood to the widening generation gap.

Loughton also highlighted changes to the physical and emotional behaviour of children as a result of increased dependence on technology.

According to NHS statistics, he observed, injuries to children caused by falling from trees has halved over the last ten years, while those caused by repetitive motions associated with computers and consoles has risen steadily.

Technology is reshaping the way young people conduct their social and emotional lives, too, he says, quoting judge Nigel Gilmore, who in 2012 warned that an increasing number of the cases coming before him involved disputes which had started or escalated over Facebook.

The situation is apparently so serious that Loughton is willing to put aside his vocal criticism of the 'nanny state' to consider the possibility of future government intervention to curb the trend towards screen dependency.

"Should the state be intervening to rebalance the average child's day, when they're spending - on average - ten times as long on the computer or watching TV as playing outside?" he wondered, urging the government against 'disincentive-ising' parents from taking responsibility for their children.

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