Published in The Courier Mail (print), 6 February 2019
IT'S THE DEVICE AGE
An average eight-year-old has spent one year of their life in front of a screen.
New research highlighting the extremes of childhood inactivity and the “death” of playtime will be presented to the Childhood Summit in Brisbane next month.
International research from the Association of Play Industries shows children have never been more inactive and “discretionary screen time” is their main activity - rising 50 per cent in a decade. Canadian neurotherapist and behavioural specialist Dr Mari Swingle says recreational screen time has replaced outdoor play.
Nature Play Queensland’s Hyahno Moser is horrified by the latest research showing the escalation of the “no play” generation. “I find this report both saddening and encouraging. Saddening because the author Dr Aric Sigman has been waving a cautionary flag since the time our only concern was television. Saddening, because it took almost two decades to ‘respond’ or otherwise take his headings seriously,” Dr Swingle said.
“We are now not only dealing with ‘basic’ childhood brain and body health issues, such as obesity, Type-2 diabetes and ADHD, but fundamental core brain rewiring - what many of us are calling a new form of Neuronal Darwinism.
“We are seeing fundamental alterations in brain function affecting infants’, children’s and adolescents’ socio-emotional and cognitive development at its core,” she said.
Almost 60,000 Queensland kids are obese, highlighting the urgent need to reverse the no-play trend, Mr Moser said.
“This groundswell of concern building around the demise of outdoor play in children’s lives is why we are bringing policymakers, health practitioners, educators, even developers to the inaugural Childhood Summit to discuss how our communities need to change to protect a child’s right to play,” he said.
“Research shows that unstructured outdoor play is the bedrock of a healthy childhood and we all have a responsibility to support parents, carers and communities to ensure our children are engaging in leisure activities that achieve key development milestones and supports their physical health.”
Brisbane’s Jacquie McEwan, mum to eight-year-old Gabrielle. says she is shocked at the idea that kids have been in front of a screen for one whole year of their short lives.
“Screentime is a real problem. Gabrielle knows she has to stick to set rules… She knows there are no screens before school. We have a big back yard and she is pretty active.”