(UK - Telegraph) Keep out: TV, DVD and computers rule

Submitted by Editor on Sun, 15/08/2004 - 01:20

Technology is destroying traditional family life as young adolescents increasingly spend more time in their bedrooms playing computer games surfing the internet or watching television, videos and DVDs, a study released today claims.

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By Caroline Davies

(Filed: 13/08/2004)

Whereas the living room used to be the hub of the home, now more and more 11- to 14-year-olds prefer to be alone in their technology-filled bedrooms, communicating with friends via mobile phone texting or e-mail.

And, as Britons become more obsessed with technology, the strong sense of family is likely to diminish further, says the consumer report from Mintel.

Seventy-seven per cent of children aged between 11 and 14 have a television in their bedroom, and 64 per cent have their own DVD player or video recorder, it found. One in four also has a computer in his or her room.

Computer game consoles also prove popular, with 66 per cent playing computer games in their rooms and as many as one in three only ever playing computer games on their own. At least one in four boys spends more than 15 hours a week playing with computer game consoles.

This wealth of technology means that a significant number of children are not experiencing family life. Three out of five 11- to 14-year-olds say that everyone at home is free to get on with their lives and interests, and 53 per cent say that as long as they do well at school, they can do what they like. A similar proportion - 51 per cent - say they prefer spending time on their own.

"Many of today's children do now seem to be experiencing greater isolation from family life," said Jenny Catlin, a consumer analyst at Mintel.

"There is no doubt that family make-up has changed dramatically over the past few decades as children may now have older parents, fewer siblings and many more live in single-parent families or step-families. But these changes do not necessarily mean that families should not still spend time together.

"Sadly, it does seem that in many cases modern technology has now replaced the family unit so that everyone does whatever they want when they want, even if it means doing it on their own."

One of the most popular pastimes was watching television, and children with televisions in their bedrooms were particularly likely to have access to non-terrestial television - satellite, cable and or digital - which suggested to researchers that parents who are themselves particularly keen on television are most prone to allowing their offspring to have their own sets, possibly to protect their own viewing preferences.

The most popular programmes were comedies, cartoons, pop music shows and soap operas, the study showed.

There has been a particularly large leap in the number of video and DVD players in children's bedroom and three quarters of those questioned watched bought or hired videos or DVDs for at least one hour each week.

Eighty-two per cent have their own radios in their rooms, while six out of 10 in the age range have their own personal CD player. While one in four has a computer in their room, this number is likely to increase. "A possible scenario could be that as more parents who are first-time computer owners begin upgrading their machines, they 'relegate' their previous computers to their children's rooms," the report says.

Ninety-two per cent said they accessed the internet on their computers, as well as using them for school work. Seven out of 10 preferred to use them for playing games while four out of 10 regularly sent e-mails. Very few - just 15 per cent - accessed chat sites.

The most dramatic change over the past three years, however, has been the mobile phone. Some 80 per cent of 11- to 14-year-olds now have their own mobiles with most parents paying the bills.

"This age marks the beginning of adolescence and a time when children begin to assert th eirindependencefromtheirparents,saidJennyCatlin.Mobile phones often allow these children that little bit more independence, while their parents can still get in touch with them and keep an eye on what they are doing.

"But calls to Mum and Dad are not the only use of mobiles. Texting has become a real craze and kids really do now love texting each other - even if they are sitting right next to each other."

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