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Seven-year-olds have watched TV for a year

Children will have spent a full year glued to TV screens by the time they are seven, a new study has revealed.

The average 10-year-old has at least five screens readily available to them at home, and over the course of childhood, youngsters spend more time watching TV than they do in school.

Limiting the amount of time children spend in front of a screen could have significant advantages for their health and wellbeing, a leading psychologist has said.

Dr Aric Sigman warned that the vast use of games consoles, computers, televisions, smart phones and laptops has been linked to obesity problems and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Dr Sigman said such extensive use could also lead to attention problems and other psychological difficulties.

The amount of time spent in front of a screen could also adversely affect children's social relationships.

He said many parents use the devices as "electronic babysitters" as a means to occupy their children.

"Screen time appears to have created the three-parent family," he added.

He also said there are emerging concerns about the amount of time children spend watching 3D televisions and consoles - saying such devices could affect the development of the child's depth perception.

Dr Sigman, who is also a child health expert, has made a raft of suggestions for children's screen consumption including delaying the age children start using screens to at least three.

Children aged between three and seven should be limited to half-an-hour to an hour of screen time each day, he said.

Those aged seven to 12 should spend just one hour in front of screens. Children aged 12 to 15 should have a maximum of 1.5 hours in front of screens and those aged 16 and over should spend just two hours, he recommends.

"Reducing total daily screen time for children, and delaying the age at which they start, could provide significant advantages for their health and wellbeing," he said. "The advice from a growing number of both researchers and other medical associations and government health departments elsewhere is becoming unequivocal: reduce screen time."

He concluded: "As health risks are reported to occur beyond exposure of two hours of screen time per day, although the average child is exposed to three times this amount, a robust initiative to encourage a reduction in daily recreational screen time could lead to significant improvements in child health and development."