A new briefing from Public Health England (an agency of the Department of Health in the United Kingdom) suggests that children who spend a lot of time watching television, surfing the Internet, and playing video games, are more likely to have lower levels of wellbeing than their more active peers.
Too much time in front of screens combined with a sedentary lifestyle is having a serious effect on UK children’s wellbeing and increasing their levels of anxiety, according to the Public Health England briefing paper. These high levels of screen time can impact a child's feelings of self-worth, self-esteem and levels of happiness, according to PHE. It can also lead to higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety, and depression.
The remedy, the government says, is less screen time and more physical activity. According to the data from the briefing, over 70 percent of children in the UK do not exercise at least one hour a day (the government-recommended minimum to keep children healthy), while a little over 20 percent take part in physical activity lasting more than an hour. By adapting children to more physical activities and less screen time, the report says, children "are more likely to concentrate better in school, enjoy good relationships with classmates, and display lower levels of worry, anxiety, and depression."
All of this information is meant to point parents towards a new "Change4Life" campaign called "Smart Restart," which encourages parents in the UK to use the period where children are returning to school to change their inactive behavior, limit screen time, and offer them healthier activities to partake in.
"There are many complex factors that affect a child’s wellbeing such as the wider environment they live in and their social, financial and family circumstances, but there are also some very simple things we can all do every day with our children to help improve their health and wellbeing," said Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s Director of Health and Wellbeing. "Smart Restart provides families with the inspiration and tools to do this. Our goal is to encourage families across England to sign up to Change4Life to make a healthy change to their new term-time routines, which will hopefully then become part of their everyday lives."
You can learn more about Smart Restart here.