'Alexa, read a bedtime story': Parents swapping books for tech, new research warns

23 May 2019, 02:24 | Updated: 23 May 2019, 04:40

More than a quarter of parents are relying on Alexa and other apps to tell their children a bedtime story so they don't have to, research suggests.

Charity BookTrust surveyed 1,000 parents with children under-10 to find out whether late night reading was still a key part of the daily routine, and discovered that many are instead relying on technology to do the job.

Only 28% said they managed to find the time to share a story with their youngsters every evening, with just under a third blaming work or commuting for missing out and one in five saying they simply felt "too busy".

Twenty-six-percent of parents have tried to use home assistants like Alexa to take on the role of bedtime storyteller, and more than half use a phone or tablet - or an app such as YouTube.

While 83% of parents told the survey they did still prefer to use real books when with their children, there are concerns over the increased reliance on digital alternatives.

Francesca Simon, best-selling author of the Horrid Henry series, said: "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.

"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. There is an element of laziness, but I don't get it really because it is just so important."

BookTrust director Gemma Malley warned that swapping books for technology "can have profound consequences" for children and urged parents to celebrate nationwide campaign Pyjamarama on 7 June.

It asks Britons to donate £1 to wear their pyjamas all day to celebrate the art of the bedtime story, with proceeds going towards helping ensure all children have access to books and reading.