The 'toxic' Web generation: Children spend six hours a day in front of screens
By Laura Clark
Last updated at 10:16 PM on 19th January 2009
Youngsters are shunning books and outdoor games to spend up to six hours a day in front of a screen, a survey has revealed.
Children as young as five are turning their bedrooms into multi-media 'hubs' with TVs, computers, games consoles, MP3 players and mobile phones all within easy reach.
The trend triggered warnings that the next generation will struggle to compete in the adult world because they lack reading and writing skills.
At the same time their mastery of technology is not widely appreciated by their parents.
The market research involving 1,800 children aged five to 16 found that they spend an average of 2.7 hours a day watching TV, 1.5 on the internet and 1.3 playing on games consoles, although in some cases these activities are simultaneous, such as watching TV while playing on a console.
In contrast, youngsters spend just over half an hour reading books, according to the survey by ChildWise.
Almost a third take a games console to bed rather than a book, while a quarter never read in their own time.
And instead of kicking a football around, more than a quarter of boys regularly meet in an online games 'environment' where they discuss tactics and technical problems.
Parents justified internet access on the grounds that it would help with homework but the survey found education had become an 'afterthought', with only 9 per cent of youngsters looking up information for schoolwork the last time they went online.
In contrast, 34 per cent played games, 32 per cent used instant messaging, 31 per cent visited a social networking site and 28 per cent watched video clips on sites such as YouTube.
More than half of children now have their own PC or laptop and a third say their computer is the single piece of equipment they could least live without, compared with a declining number - one in five - who name TV.
A report on the findings from ChildWise concluded that many youngsters were 'leaving traditional books behind' but were caught in a 'communications trap'.
It said: 'Their online abilities often exceed those of their parents' generation, but this is not necessarily recognised or valued.