WHAT on earth are we doing to our children?

In the space of just one week, the Childline charity says that thousands of UK children are struggling with loneliness because parents won’t make time to talk to them.

A survey by the NASUWT teachers’ union reveals that children as young as four are suffering from panic attacks, depression and mental health issues. And that 98 per cent of teachers came into contact with youngsters suffering from mental health issues in the classroom.

Although this is most likely among teenagers, 18 per cent said they had seen these problems in four to seven year-olds and 35 per cent in seven to 11s.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, new research shows that young children lose almost 16 minutes of sleep for every hour they’re in front of a touch-screen which potentially harms brain development. Researchers believe that tablets and smart phones overexcite children before bedtime while the blue light they emit disrupts body clocks by suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin.

There is absolutely no doubt that parents lead more hectic lives today. Their working patterns may be different, both from previously and from each other’s, and they may be under severe financial pressure to earn.

None of this, however, touches upon the basic truth of many of today’s children’s problems and that is the lack of communication.

Unfortunately, as children develop and simply get to grips with more and more technology, the ability to communicate verbally is diminishing. Children of all ages may be losing the ability to hold conversations which would allow them to feel less lonely and to talk about their problems. We have reached this point partly because technology has taken us all away from the spoken word and partly because many parents are simply too absorbed with their own lives to notice their children’s.

Learning to talk together about how each person feels is always something that parents should encourage. Sadly, and increasingly, though, children are growing into adults who have never experienced this kind of closeness.

Children have never been encouraged to talk about their feelings, their hopes and ambitions with the very people who not only influence resolution but can actively help youngsters to a happier frame of mind and more positive future.

We are now starting to reap the whirlwind of this selfish indifference and, of course, pass it on to another generation.