'Children aged five and under are at risk of becoming addicted to the internet in a trend that could damage their mental health, according to Barnardo’s.
The charity said very young children – one as young as two – were learning to access websites, for example YouTube and those related to children’s television programmes, as a result of their parents giving them access to smartphones or tablet computers to distract or entertain them.
Barnardo’s is concerned that early access to electronic devices could lead to both addiction and a loss of key social skills as families spend less time talking among themselves.
It warns in a report into the effects of technology and social media on children that platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter are having a “disturbing” impact on the mental health of under-18s.
The report said: “Barnardo’s practitioners raised concerns in relation to the social and emotional development of very young children when they interact with social media.
“Worries regarding addiction and the substitution of time spent with family for the use of social media were issues that were felt to cause problems related to mental health and emotional wellbeing in this age group.
“Key apprehensions included the failure to think creatively, interact with others socially and manage their own emotions.”
The report’s findings were based on testimony from 80 support workers who work with under-18s at 30 Barnardo’s projects across the UK. Many of their clients are young people who are particularly vulnerable because they are or have been in care, in a gang, or under the supervision of a pupil referral unit.'
Read more: Children aged five and under at risk of internet addiction – Barnardo's
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