Technology tots: The children who can use a mouse but can't tie shoelaces

More young children know how to operate a computer mouse than ride a bike as technology tightens its grip on the nation’s youth, researchers warn.

And, while seven out of ten youngsters aged between two and five are comfortable playing on-line games, less than two in ten could swim unaided.

The figures show that the traditional milestones which a child would expect to achieve are being replaced by digital ones.

As easy as riding a bike: In today's technology-driven world, children are likely to be more adept at using a computer than mastering traditional skills such as riding a bike or tying their shoelaces

As easy as riding a bike: In today's technology-driven world, children are likely to be more adept at using a computer than mastering traditional skills such as riding a bike or tying their shoelaces

Parents are either too busy or too lazy to help their offspring to learn practical and physical skills – from riding a bike to tying their laces – often finding it simpler to sit them in front of a screen.

Instead of experiencing the real world, children are copying their parents by tapping away on phones or keyboards – at the expense of their social and physical well-being.


Many middle class children start school with a better vocabulary than parents from poorer families.

Every hour toddlers in professional families hear an average of 2,153 words compared with 1,251 words in working class families and 616 words in families on benefits, a study has found.

This is largely because their parents are talking to them more than in poorer families.

Educationalists say too many parents put children in front of the TV rather than read and talk to them and assume schools are solely responsible for a child’s development.

By the age of three middle class children have a vocabulary of around 1,100 words – compared with 500 for children from welfare families.

At five many well-off youngsters have a better vocabulary than parents from poor backgrounds. The gap leaves poorer children at a lifelong disadvantage.

The findings are based on a University of Southern California study of children in 42 families from ten months old.

Child development expert Sue Palmer said that the figures showed we are ‘cooping children up inside’ more than ever.

‘By encouraging them to live a virtual screen-based existence we are deadening their developmental drive and dumbing them down,’ she said.

‘They get used to the quick fix and the easy rewards of communicating with technology and don’t learn how to invest the emotional effort that is necessary for real relationships.

‘What they need is real play with real people in order to develop properly’.

According to the study, 23 per cent of children between two and five can make a call on a mobile phone and a quarter can navigate between websites with ease.

One in five knew their way around smartphones or even an iPad. Two thirds knew how to turn a computer on and 73 per cent said they could work a mouse.

When it came to real-life matters, however, the picture was very different.

Just 48 per cent knew their own home address and only a third were able to write their first and last names. Only 11 per cent could tie their shoe laces. The survey of 2,200 mothers in 11 countries by internet security company AVG found that in general British children were more ‘plugged in’ and had fewer real-life achievements than other countries.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘Parents, who may be time poor when it comes to being with their children outdoors, are also quite happy to see them safe at home on the couch on their consoles.

‘The physical activity that every child needs is becoming foreign territory.’

AVG spokesman Tony Anscombe said: ‘Increasing numbers of parents see computers and electronics as babysitting devices.’


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