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Children 'damaged' by being left with screens, warns peer

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

By Theo Usherwood

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Children who are left in front of the television or computer games by their parents often lack the basic life skill of being able to communicate properly, a former chief inspector of prisons warned yesterday.

Lord Ramsbotham said many children were not ready for school because computer games and television had prevented them from learning how to interact with each other and adults.

Speaking in the House of Lords, the crossbencher said many parents did not seem to understand the damage that was being done to their children by entertaining them with electronic games.

He said: "There is no doubt that the lifestyle that is connected with children being dumped in front of the television or given computer games or some other means of alleged entertainment, neither of which involve parents, in fact is damaging to their ability to communicate.

"It's not helped by the fact that parents don't seem to understand the damage that is being done to a child's development by being exposed to all this stuff that comes to them at the flick of a switch or button."

Lord Ramsbotham's comments came as peers debated a Private Members' Bill to limit the access of children to adult content on the internet.

The legislation, which received its second reading in the Lords yesterday, was brought by the fellow crossbencher Baroness Howe of Idlicote. She said while Prime Minister had worked hard to secure a voluntary agreement from internet service providers (ISPs) to protect children by establishing online filters, new laws were needed to ensure only adults could access pornography through a proper system of age verification.

Lady Howe told peers it was necessary that ISPs ensured it was always an adult who disabled filters designed to block over-18 content.

Putting forward her Online Safety Bill, Lady Howe said: "Rather than age verifying the person who elects to disable the filters, the industry wants to age verify the person in whose name the account is held.

"This is a problem because evidence suggests that parents often leave the set-up stage to their more technologically literate children."

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Benjamin said: "This is not about censorship. It's about making sure Government does everything possible to support parents and guardians to protect our children online."

Conservative peer Lord Cormack said he worried ''very much" about the world his grandchildren were growing up in.

He said: "Of course you can't blame the young for being inquisitive, curious, pressing buttons that might produce something they never really thought of, never really seen.

"And yet we are seeing – and I don't want to be too hyperbolic about this – but we are seeing the corruption of a generation of our young, in the interests of amoral commercial exploitation."

The Bill received an unopposed second reading. It will now go in to committee, but is unlikely to become law due to a lack of Parliamentary time.

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