London: Youngsters are at risk of “screen addiction” because of the long hours they spend watching TV and playing computer games, a new study has revealed.
The study shows that in the UK, 10 and 11 year-olds have access to five screens in the average house.
The average screen time for British adolescents is 6.1 hours per day and rising.
A child born today will have spent one full year of 24-hour days watching screen media by the time he turns seven.
Researcher Dr Arik Sigman said that he believes a generation of children is now at risk from becoming “screen addicted”.
“We’ve always thought that it’s only substances that affect the chemicals in our brains,” Sky News quoted Sigman as saying.
“We now know that experiences - whether it’s gambling or playing computer games, looking at screens - also produce similar brain chemical changes, particularly a chemical called dopamine. It’s a reward chemical, it makes you feel good when you do something you like.
“If children are producing this day after day, for many hours per week, during the important developmental years for their brain, this would have consequences later on, leaving some children unable not to look at screens for much of the day,” Sigman said.
Dr Sigman recommends a number of measures to tackle the problem.
He suggests preventing children being exposed to a screen until they are at least three years old and recommends that youngsters are given access to screens for less time, less frequently.
He says that the British Government should issue guidelines to parents on an appropriate length of time for youngsters to be exposed to a screen.
There are some countries that recommend a limit of two hours per day of “recreational” screen exposure for children over seven years old.