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Technology used for bedtime stories, research suggests

Children’s author Francesca Simon is encouraging parents to read print books to their children at bedtime Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA

Technology has replaced books at bedtime, with more than a quarter of parents trying to use home assistants, apps and voice notes to tell their child a story in the evening, research suggests.

A study commissioned by children’s reading charity BookTrust indicates a growing reliance on digital storytelling.

The survey of 1,000 parents with children aged 10 or under found that, while almost half (49%) said they aim to share a story with their youngsters every night, only 28% manage to do so.

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Three in 10 (31%) say work or commuting stops them getting home in time, while one in five simply feel “too busy”.

One in four (26%) UK parents said they had tried to use tech such as virtual assistants for bedtime stories.

However 83% of parents said they generally use print books.

Most parents read bedtime stories from print books Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Best-selling children’s author Francesca Simon said there is no substitute for real books.

The creator of the Horrid Henry series told the Press Association: “I think it is dismaying. Because when I first saw these results, that 25% of parents subcontract their bedtime stories to tech, I was reminded of those science experiments where monkeys were given a wire covered mother.

“You had the fur-covered one and the wire one. And of course the wire one is better than nothing.

“But it is just not a substitute for parents reading to their kids. I think people are really missing the point of what this is all about. This is an incredible time to share stories and to read together.

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Conducted by Fly Research, the poll suggests technology is picking up the slack.

Sixty-five percent of parents admit giving their children time on a smartphone, tablet, YouTube or in front of the TV, instead of sharing a bedtime story.

For parents who do read stories with their child at night, tech is now a part of that routine.

More than half (53%) say they would choose to use a smartphone, tablet, app or YouTube for the task.

Ms Simon added: “I think, basically, you’re sending your children the message that books aren’t important to you, and is that really the message you want to send?

“I do not buy the ‘I am busy’. It is because they are tired and they don’t want to.

“I think people are tired. There is an element of laziness, but I don’t get it really because it is just so important.”

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The writer is calling on parents to ditch tech and rediscover the joy of the bedtime story by celebrating Pyjamarama on June 7.

The nationwide campaign by BookTrust asks Britons to donate £1 to wear their pyjamas all day and celebrate the bedtime story in any way they like.

All funds raised will go towards helping BookTrust ensure that every child experiences the life-changing benefits of access to books and reading.

BookTrust director Gemma Malley said: “Life has never been busier and many parents are finding it harder and harder to fit in bedtime stories.

“I know from experience that it can be tempting to replace reading to your child with time on a device, but swapping books for tech can have profound consequences.

“However, just 10 minutes of reading a book together a day makes such a difference – it helps build children’s language, resilience, confidence and imagination and is an amazing way for families to bond.”