Many children from ages 2-5 spend a great deal of time in front of screens, about 32 hours each week. This much time can be equated to the weekly work shift of an adult.
In a survey conducted by laundry detergent company Persil, 2,000 parents revealed just how little their children go outside. The survey confirmed that children are spending less and less time playing in the woods, fields, and parks. Most parents involved in the survey agreed that their children spend less time outside than they did in their youth. What may be even more disconcerting is that prison inmates spend about as much time outdoors as young children.
Adverse effects of limited outdoor playtime
A survey conducted by Persil, whose parent company is Unilever, showed how parents are treating the subject of outdoor play. The survey was a part of Persil’s Dirt is Good campaign. At least 74% of children play outside for less than an hour per day. According to Britain’s Environment Secretary, Liz Truss, only 10% of children have access to outdoor learning.
One hour outside for exercise is the same standard that the UN guidelines recommend for prisoners. The survey also found that ⅕ of children don’t play outside on an average day at all—the same treatment given to a prisoner when the weather is not suitable for exercise. Is spending more time playing on a screen than playing outside really effective for kids? Technology could be leading to more confined lives, not by choice of the children but by their parents.
Childhood in front of a screen
What is the experience of growing up without getting to go outside? A part of a child’s play is getting to be messy, fun, and creative. Is the loss of that experience depriving for children? It could be so: childhood obesity and stress are some of the results.
Physical activity is always a good thing. It’s not the most desirable for kids to bounce off the walls or use their outdoor voice indoors. Perhaps these issues can be easily resolved with more outdoor play.
Much like those who know the benefits of exercise and continue to sit on the couch, most parents agree that outdoor play is highly valuable but it still doesn’t happen. The study revealed results that 1 in 9 children have not physically been to a beach, forest, park or any natural environment. This is very limiting for children, especially on the inner world created in their mind.
Outdoor play complements life
Exercise is important throughout life because it’s necessary to be healthy and active. Perhaps some parents don’t realize the plethora of benefits of outdoor play for kids.
Getting plenty of outdoor exercise during formative years has an effect on maintaining fitness levels. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin produced when in the sun, not indoors.
What about being able to see better? Being in front a screen only requires the use of a limited range of eye movement. Whereas being outside helps improve vision because of the varying distances of trees and objects. A study published by Optometry and Vision Science has shown that kids who play outside have better long distance vision. It’s also important to make note that outdoor play benefits social skills, enhances attention span, and lowers stress.
Overall, parents have such fears surrounding their children that they don’t allow them to go outside anymore. Outdoor play is becoming something of a bygone era likely because of car accidents and fear of strangers.
It’s necessary to get outside and in the dirt to experience life fully. Help reduce commercialization of childhood by taking a child in your life outdoors more frequently. Simply taking time outside each day has a tremendously beneficial effect on the lifelong health of a child. It doesn’t have to be difficult to start the healthy habit of outdoor play.