Parents struggle to get children off digital devices

Many British parents find it easier to get their children to do homework, go to bed or eat healthily than turn off their phones, laptops and TVs, a new poll finds.

A survey for the charity Action for Children found almost one in four mothers and fathers (23.1 per cent) struggle to limit their children’s screen use.

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Carol Iddon, managing director of operations at Action for Children, said: “Technology is an often necessary part of the lives of children and parents alike, but it’s important to maintain a balance with other activities and quality family time.

“We know from our extensive work with families that strong relationships with parents build resilience in children, making them less susceptible to bullying or abuse outside the home, and encouraging them to speak to their parents about any fears or concerns.”

Comparatively, just 10 per cent found it difficult to get their children to complete their homework, 17.5 per cent struggled to send them to bed and 19 per cent faced a battle with healthy eating.

It is estimated that teenagers now spend up to six hours a day in front of some form of small screen. 

In 2015 Cambridge University researchers recorded the activities of more than 800 14-year-olds and analysed their GCSE results at 16. 

Those spending an extra hour a day on screens (TV, computer, games console, phone) saw a fall in GCSE results equivalent to two grades overall.


Action for Children’s top five tips for getting your children to unplug:

1 Plan fun activities for the whole family that don’t involve technology.

2 Create a balance between technology use and other activities by creating a weekly schedule on the principle of an hour of ‘energy in’ (technology use) equalling an hour of ‘energy out’ (other activities).

3 Tap into your own experience: when you were a child, what was your favourite game to play? Share this with your children.

4 Identify the challenges your children enjoy in the video games they play and replicate them. Do they like games about sport? Encourage them to play the real deal in the park or go as a family to a local match. Are their favourite games puzzles or brain-teasers? Organise a board game night.

5 Practice what you preach: when your children are having screen-free time, turn off your devices too. Don’t waste the opportunity!

Action for Children is currently running its National Children’s Hour campaign, which encourages parents and children to ‘unplug and play’ and enjoy some old-fashioned fun together.

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