Today’s media has featured two reports around screen time – that toddlers’ development is negatively affected by excessive screen time and that teenagers prefer being online to real-life interaction with friends.
On 17 January we launched the Movement 4 Movement campaign. Our report, a comprehensive review of all the available scientific and medical data on screen time, shows for the first time, that screens are replacing outdoor play and activity. Children have never moved less and the key reason is they prefer being on screens.
Let’s not underestimate the importance of this. As more and more research emerges on the dangers of hours and hours spent sedentary, alone and on screens, we all have to get behind the Movement 4 Movement campaign.
The consequences if we fail to do so will be nothing short of disastrous. I believe this is one of the biggest issues of our time. We have a moral obligation to ensure that this becomes a public health issue; we don’t allow our young children to drink alcohol or take drugs, we insist they wear seatbelts, cycle helmets and suncream. And yet, we’re allowing the silent killer of excessive recreational screen time to go unchecked.
We do this, in part, because it’s easier not to face. Up and down the country this morning, parents everywhere will have had the first of their daily battles in getting their kids off screens. Or not. Perhaps they were busy and rushing out of the door themselves, and actually, screens kept their kids quiet.
We also do it because no one is unequivocally saying too much screen time is a health risk. There are no official guidelines for children, unlike other countries where they recommend 2 hours per day. This is wrong and here’s why.
Unless we tackle this issue, an entire generation and those that follow will suffer from poor self-esteem, have mental health problems, fail to develop resilience and the social skills needed for a successful and fulfilling life. More and more children will grow up fat, desperately unfit, with a life expectancy far shorter than their parents.
It’s an over-used phrase – the ticking time-bomb – but if ever it were apt it’s now. Slowly, silently and insidiously, I believe we are condemning children to a much lesser life than they deserve.
The fix is a simple idea – make sure we all know the dangers and implement rules. To enforce it is much harder, but it begins with cultural change. This is not a generational issue – the oldies forcing the kids off tech – it’s a health issue, and a crucial one at that.
Let’s make it as socially unacceptable to allow your kids to languish for hours on screens as it is to allow them to smoke or drink. Please take just 30 seconds of your time to sign this petition asking for a government guideline of 2 hours per day. You’ll be taking an important first step in making that cultural change.