Over half of parents are concerned too much screen time is causing kids to become inactive

By Internet Matters Team on

Nearly half of parents in the UK are worried their children are spending too much time online – with the majority believing it is causing their kids to lead a sedentary lifestyle lacking in physical exercise.

Ahead of the half-term, we carried out research with parents to find out their biggest concerns around screen time. We found that 54% of parents feared their kids were spending too much time sitting down as a direct result of being on their devices. 38% worried their child isn’t getting enough exercise, while 36% said it meant they did not have enough time to play outside.

The research also revealed that parents worry more as their children get older.

Nearly half (49%) of parents with kids aged 14 to 16 worried about the lack of exercise compared with 31% of parents with kids aged four to five.

The NHS has warned that a ‘sedentary lifestyle’ can increase risk of developing health problems such as diabetes, weight gain and obesity.

The survey of 2,022 parents showed 47% were concerned their child spends too much time online.

Concerns over the physical impact of screen time 

Those with younger children who admitted screen time concerns said their top worry was the effect it is having on their child’s eyes – with 42% of parents with kids aged four to five admitting fears oversight compared to 33% of parents with children aged 11 to 13.

One in three (27%) said too much screen time led to bad posture, 22% said it meant their kids were ‘not making real friends’ and 37% said it impacted on their children’s sleep.

Screen time distraction from other activities

Parents were also worried about how distracting screen time can be for their kids – with 32% saying they were ‘easily distracted from a conversation or something else they were doing’ and 35% saying they have to fight to get their children’s attention.

Nearly a third (30%) worried about it affecting homework, while 35% said it impacted on time together as a family.

Using tech to help get kids active

We’ve launched a guide on how parents can use tech to help children get active over half-term, along with advice on tackling screen time, conversation starters and practical tips for setting limits across children’s devices.

We’ve devised a list of the top apps parents can download to help encourage physical activity.

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters, said: “Parents should not be afraid to have limits for screen time and set boundaries over their child’s internet use.

“The amount of time that children should spend online is a big issue for parents – and many will worry that too long watching screens may have a negative impact on their physical and mental health.

“However, it’s not just the quantity of screen time that parents should consider, but also the quality of time spent online.

“There are a number of apps out there that encourage children to be more active and can be fun for parents and kids to explore together.

“It can be a great opportunity to share and learn about tech in a positive way and use it as a force for good.”