Parents face 'constant battle' to keep children off screens says new Sport England boss

Tim Hollingsworth
Tim Hollingsworth spent seven years in charge of the British Paralympic Association

The new head of Sport England says one of his key challenges will be to help parents in the "constant battle" to get children off screens and more active.

The body is responsible for grassroots sport and participation.

Recent research suggests children spend too much time on mobiles, tablets and consolesexternal-link and too little exercising.

"I'm a father of two teenage boys," chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said in explaining how he too faces the same battles as a parent.

"Both my sons are going out playing sport this morning, but equally later this afternoon I'm sure both will be wanting to be on the X-Box. It's a constant battle, for a parent particularly," he told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek programme.

Earlier this year MPs launched an inquiry into the impact of screen use on young people.

Ex-British Paralympic Association boss Hollingsworth is one week into his new role, where he has replaced Jennie Price.

He said next month the organisation will release a report looking at levels of activity among young people and warned: "I think we'll find it's going to be very different from perhaps that which we experienced."

But tackling the issue is just one part of what he says will be a "major" focus of changing the perception of sport and convincing more people they can take part.

"There are people across the country of different ages, different backgrounds, different abilities, for whom perhaps traditional core sport is not what they would want to do," Hollingsworth said. "Perhaps they had experiences in the past at school which turned them off it.

"You have to think differently about what will make sport and physical activity right for different people."

Much has been made in recent years of the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics and the Games' ability to inspire people to get active.

But Hollingsworth said amazing achievements by British athletes were not the "silver bullet to getting everybody fit and active" - though success at the elite level could "drive so many positive things".

"It can be quite off putting if you watch an amazing achievement that seems absolutely out of reach," he explained.

"How do you make sport more accessible? Can we make booking a sporting facility or going and finding out what's available to you as easy as TripAdvisor makes it for hotels and restaurants?

"We do have to think differently about what activity is, what exercise can be, because it's not right to suggest that everyone has the time, the space, the opportunity, the finances to do sport in a purely traditional way.

"You can't assume that people have got the time, money and indeed the social capacity to go off and play 18 holes at a local golf club. All of this has to be in the mix."

'Sport is a wonder drug' - why sport is important

Hollingsworth said his new role would also be about "singing a song very loudly across government" to champion sports' ability to improve health. "If there is a wonder drug out there in the health sector, I'm convinced it is actually exercise. It's sport."

But he added: "It's not only about health, physical activity. Think about transport and the way that we determine transportation routes and even things like pavements, street lighting and parks and the way in which we are developing society now - planning, housing and thinking about the active environment as a whole.

"I'm so excited about the role in that all of this is possible, but it is a challenge."