Children are lashing out and biting others because their parents do not have enough time to spend talking and reading to them, nursery leaders have warned.
Too much time in front of screens, and pressures on mums and dads can leave youngsters struggling to communicate and express their emotions, it is suggested.
As a result, frustrated youngsters are resorting to biting other children, or nursery staff.
The warning comes as a poll by daynurseries.co.uk of nursery owners, managers and workers found that more than one in four (27%) say they have seen a rise in the number of children biting in the last five years.
More than three in five (62%) of those questioned said they often have to deal with children biting in their nurseries.
Sue Learner, editor of daynurseries.co.uk, said the findings were “extremely worrying” and that children tend to bite “when they don’t have the language to express their emotions”.
“Our findings resonate with other studies which have found an increase in the number of pre-school children with poor language skills.
“Too much screen time and the pressures on working parents – which means they are not spending time talking to their children – have been blamed for the rise in children’s problems communicating.
“Family life is so busy but it is vital parents take time to sit and chat with their children and read books to them so they develop good language skills at an early age. Otherwise it is nurseries that are having to pick up the slack.”
A recent study by the Booktrust indicated that some parents are using technology such as home assistants – like Amazon’s Alexa, apps, video messaging and voice notes to give their child a night-time story, Ms Learner said.
“Reading books to your children and spending time talking to them builds their confidence, curiosity as well as their language and self-esteem,” she argued.
“It is no wonder there is a rise in children biting at nursery due to them getting cross and frustrated over an inability to communicate as well as it being a cry for attention.”
David Wright, owner of Paint Pots nursery group, Southampton, said he believes there has been an increase in language delay in children.
“There are many factors for this including screen time, particularly the use of screens as baby-sitters or parental substitute where children are not engaging in dialogue,” he said.
Mr Wright added that other factors for language delay include “forward facing buggies, mobile phone usage by parents, lack of parental awareness of the need for dialogue with their children”.
Stella Ziolkowski, director of quality and training at the National Day Nurseries Association said that biting is part of children’s development, and that it is important nursery workers understand why youngsters bite as they are likely to deal with it at some point.
“There are many reasons why a child may bite another – young children who cannot talk or articulate their feelings can bite as a form of communication,” she said.
“It’s a way they can express difficult feelings such as anger, frustration or fear.”
Babies and toddlers can also bite to help relieve teething pain, she added, while some youngsters may be imitating others, doing it to get attention or acting in self-defence.
– The daynurseries.co.uk poll questioned 1,000 nursery owners, managers and staff in April and May.