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British children struggling to talk, parents too busy

London, Jan 4 (Calcutta Tube) British children are spending so much time watching television and playing computer games that one in six of them is struggling to talk, the government’s key communications adviser warned Monday.

Research published Monday by Jean Gross, the Labour government’s new ‘communications champion’, also found that many parents are too busy providing to spend valuable time with their children.

Nearly 25 percent of British boys have some difficulties learning to speak, and five percent experience significant trouble, according to the survey of 1,000 parents. The corresponding figures for girls are 13 percent and two percent.

While most children spoke their first word between 10 and 11 months, more girls than boys – 34 percent against 27 percent – did so before they reached nine months.

Some four percent of children had not said their first word by the age of three.

Gross, an educational psychologist, said some of the problems could be put down to a lack of face-to-face conversations with parents.

‘Our brains have not evolved to learn from machines. Babies are primed to respond to a face, and to recognise their parents’ faces,’ she said.

‘It’s money – mortgages. People would feel able to share childcare or spend more time at home with their children if they didn’t have to pay such astronomically high mortgages.

‘Financial pressures through the housing market have made a big difference. Think about what children need. It’s not expensive toys and big houses. It’s you,’ she said.

‘All of us are so busy. Some middle-class families don’t sit down and eat with their children.’

The survey warned that 23 percent of all children who have problems talking and understanding speech receive no help, with implications for their future.

Evidence shows that such children, left unaided, risk developing mental health problems or getting into trouble with the law later in life, she warned.

‘This really matters,’ Gross said. ‘Our ability to communicate is fundamental and underpins everything else.’

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