New research shows that parents are worried about the shift from outdoor play to indoor screen time and the vast majority of parents say that playgrounds are vital in getting children outdoors and active again.

A survey* of 1111 parents with children aged between 2 and 12 has found that 9 out of 10 parents who were not close to a playground said that having access would make their child play outside more.

Of those with access to a playground, 61% said it does make their child play outside more and over half (53%) of parents said more access to playgrounds would make their child more active.

The research was carried out by Mumsnet – the UK’s biggest website for parents – and commissioned by the Association of Play Industries (API).  It asked parents about their children’s outdoor play and indoor screen time habits and revealed their growing concerns over children’s activity levels and the shift from outdoor play to indoor screen time.

Almost half of them said that their child prefers screen time over other activities and almost half of those surveyed said they find it difficult to persuade their child to leave their screen.  69% of parents of 10 to 12-year-olds said their children preferred screen time over other activities.

“Children are being ‘pulled’ indoors by screens and ‘pushed’ away from outdoor play because of the alarming and continued decline in public playgrounds,” said Mark Hardy, API Chair. “They are experiencing a childhood where time spent playing and being active is negligible compared to previous generations.

“The overwhelming majority of UK children live in urban areas. For these children, and particularly those in the most disadvantaged areas, public playgrounds are their only chance for outdoor play.

“We are in danger of leaving entire communities without anywhere for children to play.  Couple this with the dominance of digital culture and the strong inducement it creates for children to stay indoors – inactive and alone for hours – children are facing a crisis with dire consequences for their mental and physical health.”

Over one third (35%) of parents have experienced the closure or neglect of their local playground and of those with a local playground only 13% overall said they would be happy for their child to play there unsupervised.

The association’s campaign – Play Must Stay – launched today and is calling for urgent and sustained investment in public play provision.  It is also supporting the Children First Alliance in their call for a dedicated Cabinet Minister for Children & Young People to put children at the heart of politics and help drive investment in community playgrounds.

“With ever-shrinking opportunities for children to play outdoors, public playgrounds play a crucial role in improving children’s movement levels and, in turn, their physical and mental health,” continued Mark.

“Playgrounds are not a luxury.  They provide a uniquely safe, traffic-free environment in and around our towns and cities and for millions of children they are essential to their current and future health.  For policymakers, the funding of public playgrounds should be a priority because they are both prevention and cure; playgrounds fulfil a unique role in improving children’s movement, social interaction, fitness and physical and mental health.

“As a resource to improve children’s health – through movement and outdoor play – the role of public playgrounds should not be under-estimated.  For a relatively modest investment now the health of children could benefit greatly for years to come.  Policy should reflect the reality which is that, in a heavily urbanised and digitally dominated society, public playgrounds really do matter and play must stay.”


*Survey of 1,111 UK Mumsnet users with a child aged between 2 and 12 between 21st March and 2nd April 2019. The data is not weighted.  


Media Contacts

Mary Lubrano, Head of Communications.  For further comment on the Play Must Stay campaign contact Mary on e: [email protected] m: 07999 550452

Mark Hardy, Chair of the Association of Play Industries. For further comment on the Play Must Stay campaign contact Mark on e: [email protected]  m: 07933 686222


Campaign Supporters

Leyla Preston.  Leyla is a social influencer and the founder of Motherhood Diaries, an online platform where parents can share their thoughts on all things parenting.  Throughout the summer she will be exploring the impact that more outdoor play and less indoor screen time has on her own children and documenting their journey on social media.  She can be reached for comment and interviews on Play Must Stay here: e: [email protected]  m: 07557 918568

Dr Aric Sigman. Dr Sigman lectures in child health education and publishes medical papers on child health and development subjects including excessive discretionary screen time and screen dependency disorders.  He recently wrote A Movement for Movement – a report on screen time, physical activity and sleep. You can contact him for comment and interviews here: e: [email protected]  m: 07796 267363 (text or leave voicemail)

Richard McKeever.  Richard is the Communications & Marketing Manager for Fields in Trust which champions our parks and green spaces.  Fields in Trust will be running a ‘Play’ themed week in the first week of August.  You can contact him for comment here:

e: [email protected]  m: 07940 072832

Sue Atkins.  Sue is an internationally recognised Parenting Expert, Broadcaster, Speaker and Author.  She regularly appears on the award-winning flagship ITV show “This Morning,” Sky News, Good Morning Britain and has a weekly ‘Parenting Round Up’ on Eamonn Holmes Drive Time Show on talkRADIO every Tuesday.  She also appears on The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and is the parenting expert for many BBC Radio Stations around the UK.  You can contact her for comment and interviews here:  e: [email protected] m: 07740 622769


Notes to Editors

The Association of Play Industries (API) is the lead trade body within the play sector and campaigns at the highest levels for policy recognition for play. Its members are leading manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of both outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing. Founded in 1984, the API represents 85% of the play industry.

The API operates under the umbrella of the Federation of Sports and Play Associations (FSPA), the national trade body responsible for representing Sports and Play Associations in the UK’s sport and play industries.


About Mumsnet

Mumsnet is the UK’s largest network for parents, with around 10 million* unique visitors per month clocking up around 100 million-page views. It has a network of over 10,000 influencers and its Mumsnet Jobs site, focused on flexible working opportunities, has nearly 30k monthly users. It regularly campaigns on issues including support for families of children with special educational needs, improvements in postnatal and miscarriage care, and freedom of speech on the internet. *Source: Google Analytics