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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 September, 2003, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
TV habit 'hits young children'
Baby watching TV
The amount of children's programming has significantly increased
Nearly a third of all children under the age of four have a television in their bedroom, a survey suggests.

The research, commissioned by the Early Learning Centre retail chain, also found 86% of under-sixes watched up to six hours TV a day, while the average was 2.1 hours.

The survey questioned 750 parents on the play activities of their young children.

It comes days after the chief inspector of schools, David Bell, criticised poor basic skills in young children.

The survey found that 69% of parents believed their children watched much more TV than they did at their age.

Nearly 60% of all children under six had a television in their room, while 33% of those up to the age of three had their own screen.

And a third of all five- to six-year-olds regularly play video games, the study also found.

Time spent watching TV - under sixes
Up to 1 hour - 31%
1-2 hours - 24%
2-4 hours - 23%
4-6 - 8%
More than 6 hours - 7%
Don't watch - 7%
Source: NOP

Mr Bell recently hit out at the poor standards of communication and behaviour skills in under-fives, saying some parents were failing their children by not teaching them basic skills, leaving them ill-prepared for when they started school.

He blamed parents for the all-time low standards, accusing them of dumping children in front a TV instead of playing or talking with them.

The survey, conducted by NOP, found 7% of children watched more than six hours of TV a day, while the same amount did not watch any.

It did stress that there was now more young children's programming available, with the number of dedicated channels up from two to six since 1999, offering access to more educational shows.

Outside play

David Bell
David Bell is critical of some parents' teaching skills
About 63% of parents wished they had more time to spend with their children, rising to 81% for working parents.

Most parents cherished the time that could be spent with their children, realising the benefits of "structured play" away from the TV.

Despite the sometimes enormous amount of time young children watched TV, during the summer months parents encouraged their children to play outside for an average 3.6 hours.

Child psychologist Richard Woolfson said: "Parents today are much more aware of the benefits of play than in previous generations.

"There is a clearer understanding that play contributes to child development in a variety of ways - that it is not `just for fun' - and that play and learning is connected."

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