Do you think your teen sleeps in too late? Are they out too much? Do you ever end up confiscating their phone? What does your teen think about this?

Jama Paediatrics have provided convincing evidence in their latest UK publication of sleep, physical activity and screen time playing a part in our teenagers physical, social and mental health outcomes. Asking a cohort of 14-year olds across the UK, Jama Paediatrics received self-reported daily screen times, bedtime and sleep times and walking times on their average school days. Shockingly, only 9.7% of these actually met the recommended guidelines of 2 hours screen time, 8 hours sleep and 1 hour exercise a day.

This leaves the other 90% of UK’s teens wondering where they’re missing out! Where are they going wrong?

Screen time

Researchers noted that over 75% of these teens were over-doing recommended screen time, with the rise of social media, streaming apps and internet surfing- alongside any schoolwork set on a screen. But are the recommended 2 hours actually fit for a teen nowadays? Controversially, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, alongside other researchers suggest that we should not look at how much screen time our children get, but how and when they spend this screen time. More time on screens after evening meal times reduces time spent relaxing before bed and also interferes with family time, and sleep. Screen time throughout the day time however tends to me more productive and often associated with learning.


More time on screens equals less time out and about. When my 7-year old isn’t on his iPad, he’ll spend his time on the bikes, playing football or rugby! Perhaps as parents we need to encourage a reduced screen time by making time for physical activity with the kids. With 41% of teens meeting the recommended level of activity, we can see its those spending more time on screens that spend less time out and about. There are only so many hours in a school day, so our activities interrelate. Less time on screens is more time for activities.


Though Canadian guidelines recommend 8 hours sleep for 5 to 17-year olds, the UK guidelines recommend 10 hours. Teens with less than the recommended sleep allowance (alongside more screen time) fell into the categories of displaying depression symptoms and being overweight/obese. Scientifically as our children mature into young adults their internal sleep-wake clock, known as a circadian rhythm, is pushed back to allow for the brain to mature (and evolutionarily introduce a sense of responsibility for the camp as the adults slept!). However, previous research -in accordance with the NHS- has found that more exercise, less screen time, earlier meal times and a ‘sleep friendly’ bedroom is encouraging for a teen’s good night sleep.

Here are my 3 top tips to help get teens moving:

1. Encourage physical activity as a social event

Building up the energy to go for a walk or a jog is hard- but if you’re going with someone else the obligation is there. Try getting out with your teen before the evening meal or encourage them to go with a friend. Exercise can be fun when it’s done right and with someone else!

2. Find the right activity

Running is not for everyone and getting your teen out when they aren’t enjoying the activity is near impossible. Try going to the pool once a week or finding a local rock-climbing club. Yoga clubs, Zumba and many other sports can be fun, your teen just needs to find the one fitting for them! Perhaps suggest you can go along too. Starting up a new club in your teens can be a scary thing!

3. Focus on health – not weight

For teenagers, the body can be going through a confusing time. With puberty hitting weight loss and gain is a common teenage symptom and self-confidence can begin to lack. Encourage them to get activity for their health and try to leave the scales out of the scenario. Share the long-term benefits for a health body, healthy mind. Exercise has been shown to increase wellbeing both mentally and physically, encourage better sleep and who doesn’t love that rush of endorphins post-exercise!