An engineer has designed an electronic referee to give his children the red card if they watch too much television.

Tony Ratcliffe, inventor of Screenblock, was so tired of his youngsters spending too much time in front of the box, he decided to create a gadget to govern the amount of television they watch.

Mr Ratcliffe, owner of the General Distribution company in Brocks Road, Lewes, believes the system is perfect for any parent who is concerned about how much television their children are watching but does not want to argue about it.

Mr Ratcliffe said: "Being an electronic engineer I decided to do something about the time my children spent watching TV. I came up with Screenblock and it is a real miracle.

"I realised what an immense problem watching television is in our society. It has long-term implications.

"Research shows violent television breeds violent people, as well as problems with obesity and tiredness.

"I found my two children did not argue with Screenblock in the way they argue with me.

"The interesting thing is how quickly children find something else to do when they cannot watch TV."

Screenblock is installed between the TV and the power supply and controls the flow of power to the television. It is programmed to offer preset amounts of time.

Like a referee at a football match, the system can use yellow and red cards to book children for the time they watch TV.

A yellow card will deduct 15 minutes from the daily viewing allowance and a red card will take away the remaining allowance for the day.

There is also a green card to allow an extra 15 minutes and a Parent Key which enables the person in control to override the programme.

To see how effective the gadget was, the company asked 50 families across the South-East to test it.

Mr Ratcliffe said: "One of the people who tested it for us was a shopkeeper.

"One day his children asked if they could have a bit longer on the television.

"The man agreed but was serving a customer so said he would do it when he finished. By the time he got there the children were playing football in the garden and had no interest in the television."

One of those who tested the gadget was Dev Jaffe of The Street in Kingston.

The mother-of-two said: "There was a notice up in my children's school about it and I decided to try it. It has been fantastic.

"My children are not huge television watchers but I had concerns about my older child, who would just sit and flick through the channels.

"The television becomes more than just a habit. I do not have arguments because it is the machine doing it and not me.

"I suppose in the summer children do not watch as much television. It will be interesting to see what happens at Christmas."