Campaign outlines 'practical and simple' tips for parents to limit children's screen time

Campaign outlines 'practical and simple' tips for parents to limit children's screen time

Parents are being asked to reduce the amount of screen time their children are having and to become more active.

The START campaign - from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland - is encouraging parents to put away the screens and pause for play with their children.

It is asking families to make a 'play pact' by committing to spend less time on their screens.

"This doesn't have to be organised physical activity or sport and all movement counts", the campaign says.

The campaign claims that research shows that too much screen time impacts on children's physical activity, diet and sleep.

Children who spend more time on screens tend to get less sleep are more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) and eat more unhealthy drinks and snacks.

Recent research for the campaign found that children aged under two spent on average around one hour 15 minutes every day on screens - rising to almost one hour 30 minutes at weekends.

For children aged three to nine, the weekday average was one hour 45 minutes and between 2.5 and three hours at weekends.

For 10 to 12-year-olds, the weekday average was almost two hours rising to more than three hours at the weekends.

The START campaign hopes to provide practical tools and advice for parents, to help them set limits on screen time and to encourage the whole family to become more active.

Conor Owens, Senior Psychologist and manager for HSE’s Triple P Positive Parenting Programme, said: “The best way for children to become healthier, fitter and more sociable is through play. Families are telling us they want a healthier balance between technology and play.

"We know that too much screen time negatively impacts on all aspects of a child’s development. Our tips are practical and simple and will make a real difference to you and your family.

Reducing screen time, even by 30 minutes every day will bring real benefits. Less screen time means more time for other activities.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health & Nutrition with safefood said: “While parents are aware of the dangers of everyday habits like too many ‘treat foods’ or too many sugary drinks, they may be unaware of how excessive screen time is impacting on our children’s health.

"It’s clearly linked with how active we are, the food we eat and the amount of sleep we get. Screen time can displace physical activity and is associated with a pattern of unhealthy snacking.

"It also increases our children’s exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods. We need to get this balance right and parents can make a start by reducing their own screen time.”


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