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11 May 2022 100

The Youth Sport Trust calls for urgent action to address children’s health crisis

Children's charity the Youth Sport Trust has warned that childhood inactivity and loneliness is on the verge of becoming a ‘new pandemic’ as research reveals parents are increasingly worried their children are spending too much time online and not enough time with friends or playing sport

The research, commissioned by the Youth Sport Trust and conducted by YouGov, shows 83% of GB parents are concerned that children are spending too much time online and not enough time with one another. The findings also revealed that 80% of parents say that cuts to PE, sport and break times in school have a negative impact on young people’s wellbeing.

Today the Youth Sport Trust has launched its new long-term strategy ‘Inspiring Changemakers, Building Belonging’. It said it will be vital to inspire ‘changemakers’ the teachers, young people, organisations, families and influencers — who can reach a generation of young people to ensure that by 2035 all children grow up knowing how to balance the demands of the digital age. It wants every young person to learn in a healthy way what belonging really feels like, and for young people to have a positive personal identity which comes from play and sport.

UK Coaching Head of Policy & Impact, Heather Douglas, said: “For many children, school is their first experience of physical activity and sport. A positive experience can enable them to foster a lifelong love that will benefit their future and their communities. UK Coaching fundamentally believes that all coaches of children and young people should start with the child and young person in mind. Sessions need to be based on their motivations, often about enjoyment, socialising with their friends and developing their whole self through physical activity and sport.”

Alison Oliver MBE, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “We are staring in the face of a ‘new pandemic’ of increasing rates of self-harm and children struggling in a digital age. Urgent action is needed.

“Children’s social and emotional wellbeing is in decline, and the findings today show there is a real concern from parents that their children are not getting enough play and sport. We know that unhappy, unhealthy children don't learn as effectively. If children don't learn we won't have a society fit for the future. When children play and are physically active, they are happy, healthy and they achieve. 

“There is compelling evidence for the case for more play and sport in children’s lives and pockets of inspiring practice, but more drastic change is needed, and we know we can’t do it alone. Today we begin a rallying call to inspire more changemakers on this mission. Daily physical activity, play and the development of physical literacy should be an integral part of every childhood.”

Sarah Mortiboys, Senior Manager Special Projects, added: “We all have a collective responsibility to ensure that our children and young people have an excellent first experience of physical education and sport at school. By working together, we can ensure that we are providing the best possible foundation for our workforce to deliver an excellent first experience. We welcome the launch of the Youth Sport Trust’s new strategy and look forward to working in collaboration to deliver the best possible outcomes for all our children and young people.”

The research among UK parents of children aged 18 and under carried out by YouGov found:

  • 83% of parents are concerned that children are spending too much time online and not enough time with one another
  • 81% of parents are concerned that young people aren’t getting enough physical activity
  • 80% of parents say that cuts to PE, sport and break times in school have a negative impact on young people’s wellbeing.

Over the next 13 years of its new strategy, the Youth Sport Trust will dramatically change its approach to support those most in need. Starting locally and building momentum, it will galvanise and inspire changemakers to transform attitudes, improve practice and drive policy change. The charity hopes that together the power of play and sport can be harnessed to build belonging for a generation, improving their health, fostering inclusion and developing character and leadership.

To read the new findings and strategy in full visit https://www.youthsporttrust.org/about/what-we-do/our-strategy

Schools, families and organisations can also start to take action by signing up to the Youth Sport Trust’s National School Sport Week campaign this summer.

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