Meal and bed times kept as screen-free zones by UK parents

Press Release  11th October 2015


UK parents are maintaining a healthy balance of control over children's access to screen-based play, according to a new survey by childrenswear brand Polarn O. Pyret.

In a poll of 1,330 UK parents, 67% said they 'always remove or ban screens from the table at meal time' and 80% said they 'always lock out or remove screens at bed time.'

Access to screens is also rarely being used as a behavioural bargaining tool, with 66% saying they never use it as part of a rewards system; only 18% saying they removed screens as a punishment for misbehaving and just 3% extended screen time for good behaviour.

The survey follows revised guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics this month which also recommended tech free zones around the home, saying parents should give priority to spending time talking directly to their children without a screen involved. This replaces the academy's previous guidance from 2013 which was solely based around setting age related time limits on screen access.

More guidance

However, while advice from the US is welcomed, the Polarn O. Pyret survey shows that UK parents don't feel there is adequate guidance in the UK. Only 19% said there was enough information from the UK government or official health and educational bodies, while 49% said there wasn't enough and it was hard to find trusted advice and 32% said they don't know.

Jo Nilsson, co-founder of Polarn O. Pyret UK said: 'Managing children's screen time at home is not straightforward and many factors come into play such as the type of content being viewed. Is it educational, social and imaginative or repetitive and mindless?

'The survey shows how highly parents value that face to face family time around the dinner table and calm bedtime routines. But we can see there is still a call for more guidance and support from relevant authorities in the UK to help some parents make the right decisions in managing screen time throughout the rest of the day.'

Impact on outdoor play and behaviour

While parents are retaining these screen-free zones, the survey did reveal a direct impact on other areas such as outdoor play and changes in behaviour.

- 52% said they noticed a negative impact on their child's behaviour immediately after screen-based play with 16% reporting this as 'frequently' and 37% 'occasionally'.

- 44% said that screen play is reducing the time their children spend playing outdoors. This was most noticeable among 10-11 year-olds (57%) and 9-10 year-olds (52%).

One parent said: 'I do think that screens are stealing outdoor play away, but my son says his friends are allowed so we argue a lot.'

Another added: 'As Swedish born I think we have more experience about the advantages of outdoor play and it's in our culture. In the UK, nurseries and schools don't go outside if it rains. So children tend to be more inside and pick up indoor games.'

Jo Nilsson thanked the survey respondents and revealed that nearly 400 comments were left by parents sharing the pros and cons of screen play and its impact on their family life.

'There were some really emotional responses which shows just how alive this debate is today among parents,’ she said.

‘What is really valuable is the tips and advice left by parents. Many spoke of how they are keeping a healthy balance between outdoor play and indoor screen time. We're sharing these anonymous tips on so everyone can benefit from the insight.'

Dr Amanda Gummer, a research psychologist specialising in child development, commented on the findings: 'It’s reassuring to see how many parents are recognising the importance of keeping screens out of bedrooms at bedtime and we hope to see this number increasing as parents understand more about the negative impact of interrupted/lack of sleep on children’s physical and emotional development.'

'Interestingly the Polarn O. Pyret study found that whilst some parents believed that screen time reduced the amount of time spent outside, slightly more felt that it didn’t. Screen time should certainly not replace outdoor play, but increasingly screens can be included in outdoor activities and some apps can encourage children to be more active and play outdoors.'

Dr Gummer who also founded Fundamentally Children and The Good App Guide, which provides advice on managing screen time and keeping children safe online, added: 'It would be wonderful to see government bodies, schools and national organisations working together to help make this sort of information more accessible to all parents.'

- ENDS -



•           Survey was designed for parents of children up to 12 years old.

•           Distributed to parents living in the UK. A mix of Polarn O. Pyret members and non-Polarn O. Pyret parents

•           1,330 respondents were recorded

•           399 comments were submitted by parents. You can read their tips at

•           Established in 1976, Polarn O. Pyret is a leading Swedish childrenswear brand with stores in the UK and Ireland in addition to ecom and concessions in selected John Lewis and House of Fraser department stores nationally.

•           Dr Amanda Gummer is also a member of the Play Research Network, The International Toy Research Association, Play England and The National Toy Council as well as a founder of Fundamentally Children (


Exact wording of survey questions referenced in this press release:

1. Are iPads and other personal screens always removed or banned at the table during mealtimes?

Always: 67.5%

Mostly: 17.2%

Occasionally: 5.6%

Never: 9.7%

2. How often do you 'lock out' or remove your child's screen gadgets at bedtime?

Always: 80.3%

Mostly: 5.2%

Occasionally: 3.2%

Never: 11.2%

3. Do you feel there is enough guidance from the UK Government and official health and educational bodies about screen time for children and any social or health implications?

Yes, there is enough: 19.0%

No, it's hard to find trusted advice: 49.2%

Don't know: 31.8%

4. Do you use screen-based play as a reward system for behaviour?

Yes, I remove gadgets if they misbehave: 18.3%

Yes, I extend time for good behaviour: 2.8%

A mix of both of the above: 14.1%

No, I never use access to screen games as a reward system: 65.8%

 5. Do you believe that access to screen-based play reduces the time your child spends playing outdoors?

Yes: 43.9%

No: 46.7%

Not sure: 9.3%

6. Have you ever noticed a negative impact on your child's social behaviour immediately after screen-based play?

Frequently: 15.7%

Occasionally: 36.7%

Never: 47.5%