Majority of British teenagers won’t read unless told to do so

Fewer than one-in-10 British teenagers read for pleasure in their spare time, according to new research

The BBC has reported on a nationwide study that finds that 92 per cent of British teenagers only pick up a book when forced to do so by their parents or because of a looming school assignment.

The overwhelming majority prefer to spend their evenings and weekends online playing “mindless” videogames, streaming films, or hanging out with friends.

A small proportion of youngsters (14 per cent) do read magazines and news witahout being prompted, often online.

But just eight per cent of parents say their children read a novel or non-fiction textbook voluntarily during any average week.

YA author Paul OGarra spoke to BBC Radio Humberside presenter Amanda White about the findings of the survey.

The straw poll of 500 parents was commissioned by young adult (YA) author Paul OGarra to mark the publication of his new YA novel, Malak Desert Child.

He has been speaking on radio this week about the findings of the study, including on BBC Humberside. You can currently hear the interview here (from 2:45:22). 

Almost all (96 per cent) agreed with the statement that “reading informs and expands young people’s minds” and that videogames and other digital distractions were “unlikely to educate or boost” their children’s potential.

A further 40 per cent described their children as “virtual zombies” who spent too much time glued to a monitor.

The study shows that parents themselves are not necessarily to blame.

One-in-five revealed that they had bought their children a tablet or mobile phone in the hope of encouraging them to read independently.

Of these, however, 88 per cent admitted the intention was “futile” and that the devices are instead used more often for picture sharing and updating social networks.

Three-quarters (75 per cent) of mums and dads have also resorted to “treats, bribes or threats”, while 89 per cent have implemented digital curfews.

A small minority (six per cent), meanwhile, have banned all electronic devices and TV for between one week and one month in a desperate attempt to drag their kids away from digital screens.

OGarra, who volunteers his time helping young adults to read, said: “The results of this study suggest that young adults are spending too much time on activities that don’t enrich their minds.

“A book might not be ‘trendy’ today, but we all know that it’s a passport to a world of adventure – a means of allowing young readers to learn about other cultures, other times and other perspectives.”

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