Are we raising a generation of web addicts? A major new study seems to point in that direction, saying children in the UK have become so addicted to screen time that they are abandoning their hobbies.
It found that under-5s spend an hour and 16 minutes a day online and their screen time rises to four hours and 16 minutes when gaming and TV are included. Youngsters aged from 12 to 15 average nearly three hours a day on the Web – and two more hours watching TV.
The study said YouTube was “a near permanent feature” of many young lives and seven in 10 older children took smartphones to bed. It concluded: “Children were watching people on YouTube pursuing hobbies that they did not do themselves or had recently given up offline.”
Creative parenting expert and author Nikki Bush believes the danger of technology is that it has become a management tool.
Many times parents look to it as as a virtual babysitter, to the detriment of a child’s mental health.
“Your child’s cognitive intelligence is all based on emotional bonding.
“They are growing up in a very hostile world and it’s hostile for a number of reasons,” said the author of bestselling book Tech Savvy Parenting.
What they really need is that feeling of safety and security that comes from belonging and togetherness.
It’s very important for them – it’s like a cushion for a hostile world. And that comes from human interaction, which is very important.”
But as parents spend more time away from their younger ones, many are flocking to YouTube to fill that void. Some youngsters are becoming so obsessed with YouTube celebrities that they idolise them as role models, an Office of Communications report said.
“YouTube was a near permanent feature of many children’s lives, used throughout the day,” researchers in the study said.
Often they come across unsuitable content by accident, when they are searching for something else.
Sometimes they simply seek out material they are too young to view.
They are also led to it by YouTube’s own algorithm which feeds them suggestions based on their tastes.
Children prefer YouTube to old-fashioned television or TV on-demand services because they “could easily access exactly what they wanted to watch and were being served with an endless stream of recommendations tailored exactly to their taste”, the report said.
Many of the parents involved in the research were shocked to learn what their children had been watching.