LONDON: Children's television-viewing should be strictly limited for fear of its contribution to developmental, linguistic and health problems such as obesity.

This stark warning was issued to UK parliamentarians by psychologist Dr Aric Sigman who says youngsters under the age of three should watch no television at all.

He believes exposing very young children to fast-moving images for prolonged periods may affect their concentration and inhibit development of their social skills.

He told the Children and the Media conference at Westminster there should be no TV sets in children's bedrooms and new mothers should be warned of the possible effects of too much viewing.

Dr Sigman says the UK government issues guidelines on healthy foods and alcohol consumption and contends: "Screen media must now be considered a major public health issue and reducing television viewing must become the new priority for child health."

He adds: "The British population watches television for more hours per day and reads less than any other nation in Europe. Our children are Europe's most obese. By the time children reach adolescence they spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a television screen."

Publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC, has distanced itself from the psychologist's remarks saying: "We agree that parents should monitor what and how much TV their children watch.

"The BBC does not make programmes for children younger than two and our pre-school programmes are made with children's development in mind."

And a Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said the government has no plans to introduce a recommended "daily allowance" for TV.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff