Article excerpt

A GENERATION of children is growing up on processed meals and fast food eaten alone in front of the television.

And parenting experts say the "TV dinner toddlers" will fail to develop not just table manners but social skills of any kind.

The shocking findings of a new parenting survey suggest schools and nurseries will face youngsters not knowing how to do the simplest things when they first walk through the doors.

Eating with a knife and fork and even holding a simple conversation will be too much for many of today's young children.

Mother & Baby magazine's Feeding The Family Survey 2004 found that nearly half (48 per cent) of all toddlers never eat with the rest of the family. Instead they often eat junk food on their own while watching TV.

The magazine surveyed 2000 parents whose children were on average 15 months old.

Experts say the change in lifestyle has come about largely because parents face increasing demands on their time, with longer working hours and more mothers in jobs than ever before.

The female proportion of the workforce has risen from 30 per cent 50 years ago to 45 per cent today. And the home-cooked family meal is one of the first casualties of our time-poor society.

The survey revealed nine out of ten toddlers were allowed to eat junk food.

Karen Pasquali Jones, editor of Mother & Baby, says: "The fact we are giving children processed food and plonking them in front of the TV is really sad.

"We are going to end up with a bunch of Wayne and Waynetta Slobs, not knowing how to interact with anyone else. They won't know how to sit at a table or act in public.

"When we are out I often see children just grabbing things off their plate with their hands and eating Viking-style. They will talk with their mouths full and do all the things our mothers banned us from doing. …