We need to reduce the time children spend playing games online and increase outside play instead. Everyone knows the benefit of being active but we are only just seeing the impact of too much screen time. As children have more access to virtual reality and less to outdoor play the negative effects are startling and obvious.

Concentration problems in school

Poor concentration is a growing problem in schools with pupils struggling to focus in lessons due to lack of sleep.

Doctors have reported a dramatic increase in sleep disorders among children. NHS data shows hospital attendances in England for under 14s have risen from almost 3,000 in 2005-06 to more than 8,000 in 2015-16.

Edward Timpson the minister for children and families highlighted the issue while being questioned by MPs. He said: “A big issue in schools now is around sleep deprivation. Children are not getting enough sleep and that causes problems concentrating.”

Lack of sleep has been linked to use of mobile phones and tablets late into the night by children.

Mental health concerns over social media

Concerns about the impact of social media on children’s mental health are increasing.

Natasha Devon, the former government mental health champion, said teachers and parents couldn’t keep up with the fast-moving technology.

“There is a gap in understanding between young people and their parents and teachers. The technology is developing faster than we can measure the psychological impact.”

Cyberbullying is reported to be widespread across all platforms and parents feel unable to protect their children. She also suggested schools needed IT experts to help children use social media safely.

Lady Tyler of Enfield, who chairs the Values-Based Child and Adolescent Mental Health System Commission agreed. “The technology is moving at such a pace that many parents don’t know what’s going on and how best to support their children”.

She added: “For me what is particularly important to get across is a balance between screen time, physical activity, sleep and other things that contribute to overall wellbeing.”

Stop playing online and start playing outside

According to experts excessive screen use, as well as having a TV in the bedroom, also increases the risk of obesity. Teenagers who watch over 5 hours of TV a day are 5 times more likely to be overweight than those watching less than 2 hours. Watching TV for 1.5 hours per day increases the risk of obesity in children between 4 and 9 years of age.

Cut back time watching television to reduce risk of obesity in children of all ages. Overall well-being improves when young people spend more time in the real world instead of virtual reality. To help get more balance set limits to time spent online and encourage children to get outside.

Walks and trips to the park are a free, effective way to spend time together as a family and increase activity for children. Find out where your nearest park is here: http://bit.ly/2oBXS65

Just make sure you keep your phone in your pocket and leave other electronic devices at home!


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