London: British children are spending so much time watching television and playing computer games that one in six of them is struggling to talk, the government’s communications adviser warned on Monday.
Research published by Jean Gross, the Labour government’s new ‘Communications Champion”, also found that many parents are too busy providing to spend valuable time with their children.
Nearly 25% of British boys have some difficulties learning to speak, and 5% experience significant trouble, according to the survey of 1,000 parents. The corresponding figures for girls are 13% and 2%.
While most children spoke their first word b/w 10 and 11 months, more girls than boys - 34% against 27% - did so before they reached nine months. Some 4% of children had not said their first word by the age of three. Gross, an educational psychologist, said some of the problem could be put down to a lack of face-to-face conversations with parents. “Our brains have not evolved to learn from machines. Babies are primed to respond to a face, and to recognize their parents’ faces,” she said.
“Financial pressures through the housing market have made a big difference. Think about what children need. It’s not expensive toys and big houses. It’s you,” she said. “All of us are so busy. Some middle-class families don’t sit down and eat with their children”, Gross added.
The survey warned that 23% of all children who have problems talking and understanding speech receive no help, with implications for their future. Evidence shows that such children, left unaided, risk developing mental health problems or getting into trouble with the law later in life, Gross warned.