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Parents warned about 'dangers of a sedentary lifestyle' as TV is linked to feelings of anxiety and stress in children

Article By: Julia Corbett, News Editor

A report from Public Health England has identified that spending too much time on front of a screen is one reason that has led more children reporting lower levels of self-worth, self-esteem and self-reported happiness.

The paper, ‘How healthy behaviour supports children’s wellbeing’ has also highlighted the negative impact that allowing children to watch TV in the early years can have on their future wellbeing.

The paper has suggested that letting children aged between one and three years old to watch TV could increase the chance of them developing attention and hyperactivity difficulties as they grow up.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s director of health and wellbeing said: “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.”

Lil Caprani, director of communications, policy and campaigns, The Children’s Society said: “When we asked children about their wellbeing as part of our Good Childhood Report, we found a strong association with being active and being happy.

"Things like cycling, swimming or playing football all had a clear relationship, but simple things like just going for walks were associated with higher wellbeing.”

It was found that children who spend a large amount of their free time on computers, watching TV and playing video games also described higher levels of emotional distress and feelings of lower overall wellbeing.

Wellbeing is linked with an individual’s physical health, health behaviours and ability to cope in adverse situations, with keeping active and limiting the time a child spends in front of a TV screen described as important ways to ensure a child’s wellbeing.

the Pre-school Learning Alliance, an educational charity and early year’s membership organisation, has responded to the news by warning parents of the impact that over reliance on TV and other sedentary activities can have on a child’s development.

Melanie Pilcher, the Alliance’s policy and standards manager said: “TV and electronic games are one element of leisure and learning for children and families that has gained increasing prominence in recent years, and it would be naive to expect families to ban them completely.

“However, the Pre-school Learning Alliance believes that it is absolutely imperative that young children’s development is nourished through plentiful opportunities for play, learning, fresh air and exercise if they are to grow and thrive.

“Parents and those caring for young children should be made more aware of the significant dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and the risk to brain development of over-exposure to the small screen and an overreliance on the babysitter in the corner.”

The report is being released as Change4life are publishing their campaign, ‘smart restart’ to encourage families to use the back to school period to boost healthier behaviours and habits.

Change4life are encouraging families to make five everyday changes over the next six weeks to improve the wellbeing of the whole family, which include reducing time spent in front of a screen, eating healthier lunches and being more active.

Mr Fenton concluded: “‘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.”


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