The API commissioned Dr Aric Sigman, a leading expert on the effects of screen time on children, to draw together the growing body of evidence showing the effects that less play and more screens are having on children. It is the first time all the relevant scientific and medical data has been collated in this way so that we can more fully understand the impact of discretionary screen time (DST) on play and children’s development.
Children’s screen time has increased by 50% in less than ten years, so that by the age of eight, children will have spent nearly one full year of 24-hour days looking at a screen. 90% of British children aged two-four years old don’t meet the basic minimum movement requirements.
Another study of 575 mothers of children aged two – five years old found that television/DVD/video viewing may be adversely, and outdoor play favourably, associated with preschool children’s social skills. Researchers found that play and physical activity provides opportunities for conversation, cooperation and conflict management, important social skills learnt through everyday play. Screen time may limit opportunities for social interaction. Screen time is also linked to sleep deprivation and poorer quality sleep, reducing children’s ability to be calm and therefore their ability to be compliant and behave appropriately in social situations. (Hinkley et al 2018).
A Canadian study found that children aged seven to 14 who spent more time outdoors are more physically active and less sedentary and display enhanced psychosocial health compared with those who spend times indoors. (Larouche et al 2016, 2017).
Dr Aric Sigman advocates a back-to-basics approach for children, limiting screen time to two hours per day and encouraging outdoor play and other activities away from screens. Kids are hardwired to play and we are currently defying evolution at great cost to health, while producing a generation of children who are inactive, increasing in body mass, with potentially limited social skills and unable to cope with challenges.
Also known as the Sweat, Step, Sleep and Sit system, the 24-hour movement behaviours are based on age and there is parental guidance on how to implement daily activities for children, from screen time to outdoor play, how long, and the intensity of exercise required. The guidelines are also available for adults (up to 64) and older adults (65+).
Councils are removing playgrounds following years of austerity. In April 2017, the Association of Play Industries (API) Nowhere to Play report first uncovered the state of playground decline in England, revealing the closure of hundreds of playgrounds. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the API has once again requested local authorities disclose current and planned playground closures and discovered a range of alarming facts, amongst these:
The API has set up a 38 degrees petition to raise the issue in government and prompt a discussion about child obesity and mental health, and how to address these important and growing issues among children. The API believes now is the time to stop the disappearance of playgrounds before it’s too late and playgrounds are removed, especially from our urban areas where there is limited space for space, forever.