Television and video games have become the 'electronic babysitters' for a generation of children whose lives are ever more dominated by them. That's according to a report by the National Consumer Council , called 'Watching, Wanting and Wellbeing'.
The report says that kids who spend more time watching TV, playing video games and surfing the internet have lower self-esteem, a lower opinion of their parents and more family squabbles.
"Today's children are now 'screen kids'. In some streets, every bedroom has a television for children and many have a computer. With many children watching or surfing when they wake up, at breakfast, after school, during dinner and in bed before sleep, we need to ask whether the electronic screen has now become the electronic babysitter," said Ed Mayo, NCC Chief Executive.
Significantly, the findings show that the more time children spend in front of the TV and computer, the greater their exposure to media and marketing becomes and the more materialistic they tend to be.
TV and games: life wreckers?
Just over half of children from disadvantaged areas think that "when you grow up, the more money you have, the happier you are" compared with less than a quarter of children in affluent areas.
Similarly, almost half of children in deprived areas would "rather spend time buying things than doing almost anything else". Less than a quarter of children in the affluent areas felt the same. Children's self-esteem scores, opinions of their parents and levels of family rows were broadly similar in the two areas.
However, the authors found that across areas children with more materialistic attitudes tended to have lower self-esteem, a lower opinion of their parents and more family arguments.
Dr Agnes Nairn said: "Parents need to know what screen-time takes away from what they can give. Screen-time is strongly linked to both child and family wellbeing."
If there was ever a strong argument for not allowing kids to have TVs in their bedrooms, this could well be it.