Call for children's screen time to be restricted to two hours a day

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Parents should restrict children's screen time, as report claims that by the age of eight the average child will have spent a year sitting in front of a screen.

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Report calls on Government to issue advice for parents on limiting screen time for children

The Association of Play Industries'(API) report says that children are choosing to watch TV, play games on laptops and tablets or spend time on social media over playing oustide. This has meant children are moving less than ever before.

The report, 'A Movement for Movement', authored by Dr Aric Sigman, a health education lecturer, claims that the change from outdoor to indoor time has been 'rapid and dramatic', with a 50 per cent increase in children's discretionary screen time in less than a decade.

It finds that by the age of eight, the average child will have spent one full year sitting in front of a screen, which has implications for children’s physical and mental health.

To drive change, the API has launched a campaign calling on the Government to:

  • Issue an official recommendation of two hours discretionary screen time per day for children.
  • Invest in outdoor play provision, especially in deprived areas, to reverse the decline in playgrounds.

The release of the report follows publication of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s (RCPCH) screen time guidance, which claims there is insufficient evidence to confirm that screen time is harmful to children and therefore impossible to recommend age- appropriate time limits.

Dr Aric Sigman said, ‘There is an ideal "routine" of activity within a day, also known as sweat, step, sleep and sit.  

‘Parental monitoring and establishing discretionary screen time limits can shape long-term media consumption habits and may prove a major preventer of mental health problems including screen dependency disorders.

‘As children move far more when they are outside than inside, and the majority live in urban areas, investment in attractive, good quality, free and local playground provision is vital so they have somewhere to play.’

Chair of the Association of Play Industries, Mark Hardy, added, ‘In light of the shocking statistics in this report, there is a real urgency to drive change before the long-term and permanent effects on children’s health and well-being become irreversible.

‘This requires action from both the Government and parents to counteract the effects of too much recreational screen time. Parents need to be supported in imposing limits on this and provided with easily accessible areas in which their children can play.

‘Play is such a huge part of a child’s development and playgrounds are a much-needed resource that are sadly under threat. This urgently needs to be reversed to ensure the health of a generation.’

  • The report, 'A Movement for Movement', is available here
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