Fifty-one per cent of respondents to a new UNSW Gonski Institute survey said that students should get less break time than they currently do, while 40 per cent believe they should get more.

“Australian children spend much longer hours in school than their peers in most other countries and still have less time for unstructured play during the school day,” Gonski Institute research director Professor Pasi Sahlberg said.

“These new findings reveal a total of 85 per cent of parents say kids today spend less time playing than they did when they were their children’s age.

“It is clear the vast majority of adults highly value benefits of play for children’s wellbeing and development, and this matches up with what we know from overseas research and what we are doing here.

“Learning through play may be the most effective and easiest way to help all children to learn collaboration, problem-solving, resiliency, creativity and empathy which are all highly desired future job skills.”

Nearly 92 per cent of respondents pointed the finger at smartphones and other media for reducing physical activity and outdoor play among children.

Seventy-seven per cent believe that social media is such a distraction to school children that it has a negative effect on their wellbeing and family relationships.

“Smartphones certainly have a role to play in all our lives but at the right times and in the right ways,” Sahlberg said.

“I think society is only catching up to the impacts of technology and social media on children and there needs to be some controls around this."