Kids make moves to reduce pandemic screentime

In a challenging year for Kiwi kids, 20,000 primary school students across Aotearoa worked together to develop new, healthy habits while decreasing leisure screentime by a healthy 62 per cent.

Cheered on by inspiring ASICS Ambassadors Ardie Savea, Kane Williamson, Samantha Charlton and Ameliaranne Ekenasio, the Zespri Young and Healthy Virtual Adventure supported kids nationwide to use technology for good, by showing children the incremental gains and health goals clocked when they stay active, drink more water and use screentime for learning rather than leisure.

Each student created their own avatar to represent themselves on the adventure.

As small daily actions were taken in the real world, their class team progressed through the adventure, visiting various countries virtually including Japan, China and Greece.

On top of increased outside activity time, 80 per cent of participants ate more fruit and vegetables, while 65 per cent reported their sleep quality had improved.

During a time marred with lockdowns, programme founder Kim Harvey pulled out all the stops to safely adapt during COVID-19’s disruption across regions and schools.

“To support our inspiring teachers and tamariki through such a challenging time this year was really rewarding,” says Kim.

“Mental wellbeing was a key focus for this year’s adventure, with some of our classes doing daily Zoom check-ins for exercise and mindfulness. Plus, I was thrilled to hear so many students convinced their whānau to participate in the adventure too, and that they supported them throughout the journey,” says Kim.

Kim is delighted with this year’s results which highlight the importance of focusing on the wellbeing of young New Zealanders in a year of disrupted classroom learning, however, she’s calling for more to be done to improve children’s health.

“Children noticed feeling different when taking these small daily actions, providing greater awareness of positive choices to help themselves feel better. This is vital for both their mental and physical wellbeing and, critically, it makes it more likely for them to carry these habits into adulthood.”

Maryanne Manuyag, a teacher at Onehunga Primary whose Year 4 and 5 class took part in the programme says the adventure the programme provided was even more important this year given the impact of the lockdowns.

“I was running out of exciting ideas to keep the kids entertained while teaching online, and the adventure really engaged them.

“It’s been the best year yet. After the adventure wrapped up, the kids were back at school running around the courts and really embedding the healthy habits they learnt together,” says Maryanne.

The adventure would not be possible without the continued support from key partners Zespri and ASICS, which ensures all 20,000 tamariki can participate for free.

“We’re so pleased to have helped support another 20,000 tamariki through the Zespri Young and Healthy Virtual Adventure this year, and to help make a real difference to the physical health and mental wellbeing of tamariki and their whānau,” says Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson.

“In a disrupted year for tamariki and their teachers, it’s fantastic to hear how our young people have embraced the adventure as well as the new, healthy habits they’ve picked up along the journey.”

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