ParticipAction campaign pushes play time, not screen time

Non-profit org shows that time spent with screens impedes kids' physical activity

make room for play“Make Room for Play,” a national campaign from non-profit organization ParticipAction, urges parents to switch off the screens and turn kids’ virtual play time into actual play.

According to Rachel Shantz, director of marketing at ParticipAction, Canadian children spend an average of seven hours and 48 minutes a day in front of screens, and only 5% get the minimum recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

The lure of screens is a major contributing factor as to why kids are not meeting these daily exercise requirements, and lack of physical activity, Shantz added, can result in obesity, poor sleep habits, lower grades, depression and anxiety.

“Screen time is definitely one of the worst time-suckers for kids’ leisure times these days,” Shantz said. “The type of physical activity where you’re out of breath and your heart’s pumping, that’s what kids need at minimum to reap health benefits.”

Developed by ParticipAction’s agency of record, Zulu Alpha Kilo, the campaign centers on four 30-second TV spots –“Playground” “Hockey” “Basketball,” and “Skipping.” In each ad, a group of children are happily engaged in outdoor activities, when a black screen slowly begins to take over, literally erasing their play space.

“We have turned the screen into an actual character,” said Shantz. “So there’s no dialogue, it’s in one take, and the idea is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity. We’re hoping that because it is so simple that it will be very easily digested by the audience we’re talking to, which is parents of school age kids.”

The ads, which are also available for viewing on YouTube, end with the tagline “Screen time is taking away play time. Make room for play,” and an unusual request, “Don’t visit our website.”

Though the request is slightly tongue-in-cheek, Shantz hopes the ads will be enough to spur parents to action. Those needing a bit of guidance can visit for tips on reducing screen time and increasing unstructured play.

“It would be absolutely ironic for us to say ‘screen time is taking up play time, make room for play’ and then ‘visit our website,’” said Shantz. “So, if parents can take away that message, get going on their own and carve out real play time out of their kids virtual play time, fantastic. If they need extra help, we’re there for them.”

Additional elements of the campaign include digital pre-roll, Cineplex pre-show screenings, and social. Tank was responsible for the campaign’s French adaptation and Cossette Media handled the buy.

“Make Room for Play” runs until March.

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