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Half of middle class children at risk of becoming smart phone addicts

Screen but not heard! Half of young middle class children who have smart phones are given them simply to keep quiet, government research suggests

  • Three quarters of parents of under-fives claim their children use smart phones
  • The Department of Education warned these children risk becoming addicts 
  • Middle class parents are more likely to use devices as ‘electronic babysitters’ 

Half of young middle-class children who have electronic devices are given them simply to keep quiet, according to Government research.

Three-quarters of parents of under-fives say their children use tablets, phones, laptops or games consoles.

But it is well-off families who are most likely to use them as ‘electronic babysitters’ rather than learning tools.

Middle class parents are more likely to use smart phones and tablets as ‘electronic babysitters’

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the devices were 'an easy distraction for both children and parents'

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the devices were ‘an easy distraction for both children and parents’

The Department for Education study will renew concerns children are becoming more sedentary – and risk becoming addicted to iPads and phones before they even start school.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds yesterday described the devices as an ‘easy distraction for both children and their parents’ and a ‘double-edged sword’. More than 3,500 parents of children aged up to five were questioned about their use of devices at home as part of the DfE’s annual early-years survey.

Researchers found 64 per cent of under-fives use a tablet, 40 per cent a smartphone, 16 per cent a PC or laptop and 15 per cent a video games console.

Of those using devices, 44 per cent were given them simply so they remain ‘occupied or quiet’, the survey found.

For families earning £30,000 to £45,000 a year, the proportion was 47 per cent. But this rose to 49 per cent among households who bring in more than £45,000.

Among families on annual incomes of under £10,000, the proportion was just 35 per cent.

The poll also found children in lower-income families were more than twice as likely to use the devices for learning on a daily basis than those in richer households.

Thirty-two per cent of children in households on under £10,000 use a device as a learning tool at least once every day.

This compares with 15 per cent of those in households earning £45,000 or more.

Dr Richard House, a psychologist and campaigner on the impact of ICT on children, last night said busy parents must avoid falling back on using such gadgets as a simple distraction.

He said: ‘That means placing “slower parenting” and real, face-to-face relating with our children ahead of seductive and addictive techno-gadgetry, and consciously making the time for those real human relationships that help our children to become fully human.

‘We just have to do it – or else our children’s mental ill-health will continue to soar to even more terrifying levels.’

Mr Hinds said: ‘This survey underlines that technology is a double-edged sword.

‘We all know that phones and devices are an easy distraction for both children and their parents, me included.

‘But also when used in the right way, technology can actively support a child’s learning and is something we must harness in our mission to support parents with children’s learning at home.’

Research published by the National Literacy Trust earlier this year revealed that, amid the widespread use of smartphones and tablets, more than 750,000 British children do not own a single book.