With the return of the school routine for families, safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland are encouraging parents to reduce the amount of screen time their children are having, become more active and start them on the way to a healthier life.
The ‘START’ campaign encourages families to make a ‘play pact’ by committing as a family to pause for play and spend less time on their screens. This doesn’t have to be organised physical activity or sport and all movement counts. The website www.makeastart.ie provides lots of simple ideas on getting active in and around the home and ways to make a positive, healthy start.
Research reveals 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. The START campaign aims 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.
Recent research for the START campaign found that children aged under the age of two spent on average approximately 1 hour 15 minutes daily on screens, rising to almost 1 hour 30 minutes at weekends.
For children aged 3-9, the weekday average was approx. 1 hour 45 mins and between 2.5 and 3 hours at weekends, while 10-12 year olds, averaged almost two hours daily, rising to more than three hours at the weekends.
Sarah O’Brien, HSE national lead on the START campaign commented, “screen time is such a part now of daily life that trying to cut down on it might seem challenging. Ideally, under those under the age of two should have no screen time while children under age five should have no more than an hour a day. For older children, it’s important to agree set limits that suit your family and to stick to them. Children love to copy what others do so if they see parents on a smartphone, chances are they’ll want to do the same. Having wind down time with no screens before bedtime and enjoying more screen free meals together are two good places where parents can start.”