Nearly half of youngsters are addicted to their tablets and smartphones, according to parents in a new poll.
Some 47 per cent of mums and dads said their children spend too much time in front of their screens, while 43 per cent said this was akin to emotional dependency.
A survey by the consultancy ComRes for Channel 4 News found just over half of parents worried their kids were exposed to sexual content on their electronic devices, while 52 per cent said they were worried about them meeting strangers online.
It also found that children spend an average of nearly three hours a day in front of their screens – whether playing games, watching videos on YouTube or using social media.
Professor Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics said parents were unsure who to turn to for guidance on the issue, the Daily Mail reported.
“It feels to me a bit like with the internet, we’ve given our kids the tools but we haven’t given them a map,” she said.
“Parents who understand the internet better and can advise their children better on how to make those judgments on what’s safe, what’s not safe, what’s interesting, what’s less exciting and so on, will have children who feel more confident and more skilled and better able to make judgments.”
The poll of 1,056 parents with children under 18 found that 59 per cent use the devices as punishment or reward.
Sixty-three per cent of those surveyed admitted to “iParenting” – using the technology to pacify or distract their youngsters when they were busy or tired.
This comes after a study revealed that each hour a day of television screen time reduces teenagers’ GCSE scores by the equivalent of two grades.
The research, which tracked the progress of 845 students between the ages of 14 and 16, found that watching TV had a huge impact on results, which could not be cancelled out by extra studying.