Young boys are forming closer ties with TV characters such as Bob the Builder than with their own parents, an expert has warned.
According to leading child expert Sue Palmer, marketers are exploiting children’s trait of becoming attached to a favourite toy or story character by creating a whole industry around it of DVDs, books and toys.
"If parents aren''t careful, and especially if they aren''t around, their son''s relationship with Elmo, Bob the Builder or Fireman Sam could rival his relationship with them," The Telegraph quoted her, as saying.
"Talking and singing to children is critical to the development of empathy and language, but it does not work with screens.
"The danger is that the child will be more fascinated by the things they see on screen, and not learn and be fascinated by real-life human beings and real-life play,” she added.
While Palmer admits that children of both sexes are increasingly in thrall to technology, boys seem to succumb more to the "unholy alliance between technology and consumerism", and are more susceptible to the need for "toy consumption".
According to her, Bob the Builder is particularly appealing to boys because of the "boy-friendly ingredients of tool use, basic mechanics and male status", and they will come to associate their favourite character with "safety and happiness."
In her new book, 21st Century Boys, Palmer says the attachment to television characters is part of the toxic childhood that seeks children damaged by a combination of "junk food, junk play and junk culture".
"Children have, of course, always become attached to favourite toys or other special objects and used them as comforters," she said.
"What's different here is the commercial exploitation of a deep human need in children under three years old,” she added.
Colwyn Trevarthern, a developmental psychologist, said allowing children to be dominated by media-driven toy consumption was "tantamount to neglect".
"There is a sense of poverty in these activities compared with those that develop the natural creativity of children," he told the Daily Mail.