Parents are not spending enough time with their children and are letting screens take over, according to the chief executive of Mother's Union, Reg Bailey.
Mr Bailey, who carried out a review into the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood for David Cameron three years ago, says British parents are among those in Europe most likely to ‘neglect’ their children.
Citing a recent Unicef study, which examined the behaviour of families from the UK, Spain and Sweden by recording them in their homes, Mr Bailey said it was evident that British parents spent far less time talking to their children and more time on devices such as smartphones, televisions and tablets.
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‘It does worry me that the amount of time that parents spend with children in the UK is also one of the relatively lower ones within Europe,’ he told The Independent.
‘I wonder if we are leaving children too much to their own devices as opposed to spending time with them, and therefore screens take over.
‘What was really noticeable was how few of the British families had a dining table or a kitchen table,’ he said. 'They tended to eat meals around the television on their laps, whereas both the Swedish and the Spanish families had a meal round the table and spent a lot of time just talking.’
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Is spending time on technology bad for toddlers?
Educational psychologist Dr Kairen Cullen warns that too much time on technological devices can hinder toddlers’ development and learning through creative play, which is especially important in their first two years. ‘Playing on the iPad inevitably comes at the expense of other activities, such as drawing.’
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It’s all about moderation though and making sure the time they spend on technology is productive. ‘Playing a phonics app, for example, is more interactive than watching TV, which is a passive activity,’ she said. As well as making sure any screen time is interactive, be sure to trust your instinct. ‘You just have to listen to that voice that tells you when it’s time to turn off,’ added Kairen.
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As well as making sure any screen time is interactive, Dr Nicola Yuill, who heads up the University of Sussex’s Chat Lab, which aims to understand how technology can help children, adds, ‘the best way to make use of technology is to do it together, so it’s a shared experience.’