More than half of London toddlers are glued to technology at the dinner table

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By Teddington People | Sunday, January 12, 2014, 09:02

TV dinners and smartphone suppers begin in toddlerhood for more than a half of little ones growing up in London, a survey released this week from GrowingUpMilkInfo.com reveals.

Furthermore, more than a third of those toddlers watch TV or a DVD (36%) at the table. Hand-held gadgets are next, with iPads (28%) coming second, followed by smartphones (24%) and hand-held games (12%).

While one fifth of parents in London see the everyday meal occasion as an opportunity for family bonding, the GrowingUpMilkInfo.com research reveals more than a third of toddlers in London are often glued to a screen during family mealtimes and would kick up a fuss if the TV or iPad was switched off.

Tantrums (38%) and boredom (35%) are the main reasons most mums and dads turn to technology during mealtimes, with just one in twenty (5%) prioritising the nutrition of their little one at the table.

The survey, conducted among 600 UK parents of toddlers last winter, also revealed toddlers in London are more likely to identify cartoon characters than the food on their plate.

Peppa Pig is the most recognisable, with 55% of toddlers able to identify the cartoon pig, compared to just 36% being able to name broccoli. Thomas the Tank Engine is more familiar to 40% of toddlers in London than olives (31%) and avocado (9%).

When it came to knowledge of toddlers' nutritional needs, more than one in five parents in the capital admits they are more familiar with the weekly TV schedule than their little ones' daily vitamin D dietary requirement. The survey also found that a quarter of the nation's little ones leave their fruit and vegetables till last on their plate.

Leading child nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton said: "Toddlers have specific nutritional requirements that aren’t always easy to meet, especially when it comes to topping up their diet with important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D. Offering your little one a healthy balanced toddler diet can be a struggle at the best of times but, as the survey reveals, it's only made more difficult when they're distracted by technology.  

"Parents need to be well informed about their toddler's nutritional needs, in order to ensure their diet is being supported during this period of growth and development."

GrowingUpMilkInfo.com Child Psychologist, Dr Richard Woolfson comments: “The family meal can be such a wonderful time for parents and children alike. It allows them to share their feelings, thoughts, and ideas through face-to-face communication, while also giving parents the opportunity to encourage positive eating habits and provide good nutrition to support this amazing period of toddler growth and development.

"Unfortunately, this research reveals that a high percentage of parents allow their toddler to play with a gadget while munching at mealtimes, which is a cause for concern. Although technology does add new and exciting dimensions to a toddler’s life, access to gadgets at the family dining table inevitably distracts children from eating what’s in front of them, reduces their desire to chat with others during dinner, isolating them from the dynamic communication of the family meal. This is a lost opportunity and a solid reason why it’s best to make at least some family mealtimes a no-gadget zone. After a few initial protests, your toddler will soon adapt and everyone will experience the full psychological and nutritional benefits of an IT-free family meal.”

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