Screen time campaign launched to help children develop healthy digital diet

New TV ad shows child mesmerised by screen with tagline: If you left your kids to their own devices...they may never leave their devices'.

Research reveals nearly 70% of parents worry their kids spend too much time online.

So, today we launch a new TV campaign to help parents find the right screen time balance for their children.

The ad – which launches to coincide with the start of a new school year and will run throughout September and October – is part of a focus from Internet Matters on the importance of striking a balance in children’s internet use, agreeing boundaries and ensuring time on the internet is well spent.

What are parents screen time concerns?

It comes as new research of 2,000 UK parents shows over a third (37%) say they have to “fight for their attention” because of the levels of screen time.

Out of the 67% who worry their child is spending too long online – whether playing games or on social media – one in four (24%) are “very concerned”.

Nearly two-thirds of parents (63%) with children aged four and five say they are worried their child is spending too much time online. Concerns peak for parents with children aged 11- 13, with nearly three quarters (72%) expressing concern over too much time spent on their devices.

How does screen time impact wellbeing?

Parents of children aged 14-16 are particularly concerned about the impact of screen time on sleep patterns and school work. Half (50%) say their 14 to 16-year-old “stays up late using their devices and it impacts their sleep”. More than a third (36%) say it’s impacting their homework and 40% say it’s impacting family time together. 63% of parents are concerned about the impact social media has on their kids’ mental well-being.

Out of the activities they do, the biggest concern is watching videos (59%), followed by gaming on consoles (41%), gaming on smartphones or tablets (36%) and connecting with friends on social media (35%).

Is screen time vital for children? 

But the research also revealed 70% of parents believe using devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones, is essential for their child’s learning and development. And around the same amount (67%) believe devices allow their child to be creative.

Meanwhile over a third of parents (36%) believe their children are not getting enough time to play outside because of screen time – while nearly a quarter (22%) say it’s holding children back from making real friends, rising to 30% for 14-16-year-olds. Despite their concerns, more than one in five parents of 14-16 year olds say they take no action to restrict the amount of time their children spend online – compared to the average of 12% across all  age groups.

What do online safety experts say?

Internet Matters ambassador Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: “Parents can often find themselves in a dilemma when it comes to their kids and their devices. They know there is a whole amazing world online that can be beneficial to their kids, but they also see how apps, games and platforms pull them in and keep their attention.

That’s why it is so important to talk to your children and agree boundaries with your kids around not just how long they go online for, but what they go online for; what is healthy screen time and what is unhealthy screen time. It doesn’t mean they can never play games or watch their favourite gaming vloggers.

The conversation must be around how what they do during their screen time rather than simply the amount of time they spend and the role parents play can do to help them make the time they spend more beneficial – away from mindless scrolling.

Balance is key. Ask your children how they want to invest the time they have online and make sure it’s not wasted. The more you get involved and understand the things your children do online, the easier it is to influence what they do in their digital world.”

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters, said: “Screen time is a real challenge for most parents, so our campaign brings together the best advice and guidance for parents so they can help their children live a balanced digital life. The back to school period is a time when we know parents are thinking about their children’s online safety, so it’s a good time to have a conversation with your child and re-set some screen time boundaries.

We aim to give parents the tools they need so they can become more involved in what their kids are doing online and get to grips with how to maintain their digital wellbeing.”

Making the TV ad

To make the ad as realistic as possible, filmmakers shot genuine footage of nine year-old Evie streaming a video on her tablet.

Evie said: “Seeing the advert was quite strange because I saw my face and I realised how much I am paying attention to the tablet and nothing else. It’s really important that there are time limits for me to go online otherwise I will probably just want to go on it all the time. It helps me do other things like read a book or go and play outside. Mummy also has rules for herself and is also not allowed to use her phone at meal times.”

Resources light-bulb

See our new screen time advice guide to help children balance screen time and develop a good digital diet.

See guide

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