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London - Today’s youngsters risk developing a lifelong dependency on TV and computer screens, Britain’s leading doctors have been told.
The growing addiction could leave a generation suffering damage to the body as well as the brain, according to a leading psychologist.
The latest statistics show that 12 to 15-year-olds spend an average of more than six hours a day slumped in front of screens.
Shockingly, the figure only applies to viewing at home and not to computer use at school or gadgets such as smartphones in free time.
Dr Aric Sigman wants TV banned for toddlers and severely rationed for other youngsters and will warn that parents who use technology as a ‘babysitter’ could be setting up their children for a lifetime of ill health.
His work and studies by other researchers link time spent in front of screens with health problems including obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure, inattentiveness and declines in maths and reading, as well as sleep disorders and autism.
Studies also show that the brain’s reaction to computer games is similar to that seen with drugs and alcohol.
He told the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s annual conference in Glasgow: ‘Whether children or adults are formally “addicted” to screen technology or not, many of them overuse technology and have developed an unhealthy dependency on it,’ he will say.
Dr Sigman wants television sets taken out of bedrooms and believes that the youngest children, whose brains are still developing, should not watch TV at all.
From the age of three to seven, they should be limited to an hour and a half a day. Older children should be able to get by with just two hours of TV programmes and computer games.
Dr Sigman says: “Passive parenting” in the face of the new media environment is a form of benign neglect. A large number of studies are finding that parental rules and limits on child screen time effectively reduce screen time, as does not having screens in bedrooms. - Daily Mail