Screen time concerns among parents ‘fighting for their children’s attention’

More than a third of parents have admitted they are competing against gadgets when it comes to getting their children’s attention, according to a survey.

Almost four in 10 of mothers and fathers (37%) said they have to “fight for their attention” against excessive screen time, as they struggle to detach children from watching videos online, playing games and using social media.

A similar number (36%) believe their child is not playing outside enough, while nearly a quarter (22%) think it is holding them back from making real friends.

The research, involving 2,000 UK parents of four to 16-year-olds, comes amid increased concern about how long young people spend in front of devices, with 67% of parents indicating that they are worried their child is spending too much time online.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, ambassador for Internet Matters, said that “balance is key” and parents should get more involved with children’s online activities to make it easier to influence what they do in their digital world.

“Parents can often find themselves in a dilemma when it comes to their kids and their devices,” she explained.

“They know there is a whole amazing world online that can be beneficial to their kids, but they also see how apps, games and platforms pull them in and keep their attention.

“That’s why it is so important to talk to your children and agree boundaries with your kids around not just how long they go online for, but what they go online for; what is healthy screen time and what is unhealthy screen time.

“It doesn’t mean they can never play games or watch their favourite gaming vloggers.

“The conversation must be around what they do during their screen time rather than simply the amount of time they spend and the role parents play to help them make the time they spend more beneficial – away from mindless scrolling.”

The findings come as the nonprofit organisation launches a new advertising campaign designed to help parents find the right screen time balance for their children.

Child using a smartphone
Parents of children aged 14-16 are particularly concerned about the impact of screen time on sleep patterns and school work (Philip Toscano/PA)

Parents of those aged 14-16 years old expressed particular concern about the impact of screen time on sleep, school work, family time together and mental wellbeing.

However, more than one in five parents in this age bracket said they take no action to restrict usage, compared to the average of 12% across all age groups.

“Screen time is a real challenge for most parents, so our campaign brings together the best advice and guidance for parents so they can help their children live a balanced digital life,” said Carolyn Bunting, chief executive of Internet Matters.

“The back to school period is a time when we know parents are thinking about their children’s online safety, so it’s a good time to have a conversation with your child and re-set some screen time boundaries.

“We aim to give parents the tools they need so they can become more involved in what their kids are doing online and get to grips with how to maintain their digital wellbeing.”

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