I have just been interviewed on BBC Radio Berks about a new survey that discovered that 1 in 5 youngsters has a television in their bedroom by the age of four according to research by retail analysts Mintel.
One in five children aged four and younger are having TV sets put into their bedrooms.
Critics fear the sets appear to be replacing parents in terms of soothing, entertaining and even educating youngsters.
Some 17 per cent of all parents say they have a television in the bedroom of children aged four and young, according to research by retail analysts Mintel.
Young parents are particularly keen on the idea of the technology with more than one in four – 28 per cent – putting TVs in the rooms of under 4s.
The idea that having a television in every room, including the nursery, is normal has been promoted by the rich and famous, including Premier League footballers.
Images from the former home of the Everton and former England player, Phil Neville, revealed a giant flat screen set in a high cost nursery just feet from the family’s cot.
The player’s youngest child, Isabella, has cerebral palsy and the family may have found that the TV helped her development.
To older generations, the idea of putting a TV in a bedroom is tantamount to child abuse, amid claims it leads to isolation, poor development and social skills.
However, this stigma does not apply for younger parents raised in homes where TVs are turned on from they moment they wake up to the time their head touches the pillow at the end of the day.
The Mintel research found that, in general, parents from the poorest background with the fewest educational qualifications were most likely to put a TV into the room of a baby or toddler.
The figure was more than one in three – 38 per cent – for those in social group E.
Single parents were also more likely to rely on the technology in the bedroom, at one in four – 25 per cent – versus 13 per cent of married couples.
However, this is not exclusively an issue for poorer families. Mintel found one in ten of families with the most wealth and education have put a TV into the baby’s room.
Director of the Family Education Trust, Norman Wells, said: ‘The widespread use of electronic babysitters in children’s bedrooms is not only placing children at risk of exposure to unsuitable material, but it is also destructive of family life.
‘Technology is a good tool, but a poor master and can have a damaging effect when it reduces the amount of time family members spend together in shared activities.
‘A growing dependence on electronic gadgets and technology may be a contributory factor to the marked decline in the verbal communication skills of children and young people that has been noted in recent studies.
‘Since children are impressionable, and television is a powerful medium that can influence mood and behaviour, it is important for parents to exercise control over what their children watch and that is not easy to do when the television is shut away in the privacy of the child’s own bedroom.’
There is research to suggest a growing number of children are beginning school without the ability to hold a conversation because they have spent their formative years in front of the box.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has advised parents to ban the practice based on the idea that, particularly among older children, it encourages isolation and bad behaviour.
Mintel’s senior consumer analyst, Jane Westgarth, said: ‘We included TVs in the survey to see how indispensable a part of people’s lifestyles they have become.
‘And it does seem that the younger parents, who have grown up with the plethora of terrestrial and satellite channels, are the most keen on introducing their babies to the world of TV as soon as possible.’
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About the author
Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.
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