Why the internet is as bad as holiday ‘junk food’ for our children

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Britain’s young people’s guru has warned parents to stop their children abusing social media.

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, says off-spring as young as three and four are consuming online minutes “like junk food”.

The internet overtook television as the top media pastime for British youngsters last year, according to the media regulator Ofcom. Children aged five to 15 are spending an average of 15 hours a week online.

Shockingly, last year the time three and four year olds were spending online increased from six hours 48 minutes to EIGHT hours 18 minutes a week, while 12 to 15 year olds now spend more than 20 hours online

Mrs Longfield has attacked methods social media giants are using to attract young people into spending more time staring at tablets and smartphones.

Launching a campaign to regulate childrens’ internet use, she said it should be balanced like diets. She said: “It’s something that every parent will talk about,  especially during school holidays – that children are in danger of seeing social media like sweeties, and their online time like junk food.”

Mrs Longfield said children should be taught that sites encourage them to click on another game or video.

The Commissioner has been putting Facebook under pressure to make it easier for children to report things they are worried about or switch off certain features.

She said in an interview: “I want Facebook and all the other social media companies to be as proactive as they can about creating a good place and a safe place for kids to be. At the same time I want them to stop using the algorithms and the targeting that get kids addicted.”

The problem of tablets is more prevalent when parents take their children abroad and it is a sad sight to see youngster being handed social media units to keep them quiet while their parents eat or drink.

Mrs Longfield said Facebook and other social media giants “are not coming forward at quite the speed I would like them to” on making it easier to protect children.

“There is so much more they could do,” she said. “These are clever, clever people, who know their industry well.”

Meanwhile, a  solicitor has warned divorcees they could be ARRESTED if they take their children on  holiday.

Melanie Bridgen, from Nelsons Solicitors in Derby,  says separated parents need to  get written consent before taking their off-spring outside  England or Wales.

Ms Bridgen said in the worst case scenario parents could be detained, questioned and arrested abroad if they don’t have a signed letter or  court order.

She said: “Just because you have ‘parental responsibility’ it does not automatically mean that you can take your child on holiday outside England and Wales without the agreement of the other parent.

“It is always best practice to get written permission, especially if there is any chance that verbal permission will be withdrawn before travel.

“Without the correct permissions in place, you could find yourself being asked some awkward questions at the port or airport – and, in the very worst case being detained, questioned and possibly arrested for child abduction.”

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