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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 01:08 GMT 02:08 UK
Youngsters 'prefer TV to family'
Television screen
Children watch television more than any other activity
Children spend little time with their parents - and much more time watching television than reading books, says a survey of primary school-age children.

Research accompanying the government-backed Booktime literacy project shows that youngsters spend little of their spare time with adults.

It says that, in some families, shared meal times are only 17 minutes per day.

A survey of 1,800 families suggested it was a struggle for UK parents to find more time to read with children.

It also suggested that the higher a father's earnings, the more likely he was to read with his children - but it was the opposite for mothers.

The more that they earned the less likely they were to read with their children.

'Penned up' children

The Booktime project urges parents to read more with their children.

The survey suggested that children were more likely to be watching television or playing alone or with friends, playing computer games or watching DVDs than spending any time with their parents.

Children have been brought up watching TV rather than playing
Heather Bingham

Family time appears to be much more marginalised - with shared meals lasting an average of 43 minutes per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and 18% of families sharing only 17 minutes together.

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, says of the survey that "unlike the free-range youngsters of the past, most are kept penned up at home rather than out to play".

"And with most parents working - or exhaustedly trying to fit domestic responsibilities around work - there isn't much time for family activities either."

Nor can parents expect much help from children - with 38% saying their nine-year-old did no tidying up or household chores of any kind and 29% saying they helped for less than 30 minutes per week.

Book shelves

The biggest single home activity for children was watching television - an average of seven hours and 46 minutes per week. Reading occupied a weekly average of three hours and 51 minutes.

But the survey revealed wide social differences in book ownership.

In London, 14% of families reported that their children owned between one and 10 books. In well-off families, half of children owned more than 50 books each.

More than a fifth of children in Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire have never been to a library, says the survey.

And about a third of UK parents never or hardly ever take their children to a library.

Do children spend too much time watching television?
Not sure
5441 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Teachers back TV viewing concerns
19 Feb 07 |  Education

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