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Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 00:31 GMT 01:31 UK
Children in UK 'watch most TV'
EastEnders was a popular choice among children
British children spend more time in front of the TV than any of their European contemporaries, according to a new book.

Children and their Changing Media Environment shows how UK children, aged six to 16, spend around three hours a day watching TV compared to two hours elsewhere in Europe.

The research, from Professor Sonia Livingstone and Moira Bovill, also says that UK children spend the least time reading or playing outdoors.

Child watches TV
British children have the most TVs

The research concludes that UK children are bigger TV watchers due to a combination of factors, including increased access to TVs in the home and a lack of things to do outside.

British children are also being kept inside due to parental fear over their safety.

Ms Bovill said of the findings: "Britain should rethink the place children have in our society.

"They seem unhappy with their lives but we don't provide enough facilities or support for them outside - and sometimes inside - the home."

New media

The research was carried out over 1997 and 1998 and looked at children's usage of all forms of media, be it TV, PC or book.

British children were shown to spend the most time a day - five hours - using media in general.

But they are also the most likely to say there is not enough for someone their age to do in their area.

Children at school on computer
Children in the UK were the most enthusiastic about PCs

When it came to TV, children across Europe seemed to enjoy similar programmes, with cartoons generally popular with the young.

Soaps, especially EastEnders, were popular with most ages and sexes but teenage boys proved to be heavily into sport.

But UK children came out on top for having their own individual sets.

Two thirds of children in the UK said they had a personal TV in their room.

British children also proved poor consumers of books, newspapers and magazines outside school.

Only 54% of UK children read books in their free time compared to 91% of children in The Netherlands.

In the UK, 33% of children read newspapers compared to 89% in Sweden.

British children were also the least likely to discuss books with their friends.

However, they did come out on top with a score of 83% for finding PCs and new media exciting.

PC access a problem

The average was 60% over the rest of Europe.

The problem is that fewer children in the UK are able to gain access to PCs.

They have the greatest use of PCs at school, with 87% saying they use them in their education.

The average figure was 61% but far fewer UK children were able to continue their interest after school - only 50% said they had access to a PC at home.

And in The Netherlands and Nordic countries, 84% of children continue their PC use when they get home, where they are the most likely to have access to the internet.

The BBC's Karen Bowerman
"Experts fear UK children are turning into TV addicts"
Professor Sonia Livingstone
"British children are spending five hours a day with the media"
See also:

06 Apr 01 | Education
Pupils 'learn about sex from soaps'
04 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
'More rights for kids on TV' - report
12 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Broadcasters welcome Ofcom
30 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Viewers want children 'protected from TV'
20 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
Saturday morning's wake-up call
13 Feb 01 | Europe
Sweden pushes for ad ban
24 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Campaigners urge TV turn-off
14 Aug 00 | Education
TV 'helps pupils pass exams'
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