The Not-So-Great Outdoors for Today's Kids: What You Can Do About It
What’s not surprising is that a new study shows today’s kids spend too little time outside in nature and too much time—way too much—in front of the television and computer screen. The stopper is that this research was done in Australia and not in America. If a mere 37 percent of Australian pre-teens spend a half-hour or less outside each day and a scant few percent were outdoors for two or more hours daily, then it’s not difficult to imagine those numbers likely squeeze down even more in the U.S. Things are amiss, mate. Keep reading to find out what else the researchers discovered. . .
What’s more, the researchers found that significant percentages of the 1,200 Australian boys and girls locked into the two-hours plus of screen time. Half of all boys fit this category and more than a third of the girls. Again, the semi-official position here at Alternative Health Blog is that American kids would score higher on these marks, just like they can rack up the points on assorted video games.
Here’s an important asset of this study. The children who most likely to be outdoors for more than 30 minutes per day were being raised by parents who allowed them to walk around the neighborhood “on their own.” That ease of movement—basically access to public space—is not a common situation for many families who live in urban and suburban areas. Bottom line: If parents think the neighborhood is safe, then kids are more likely to get outdoor exercise and interact more frequently with nature.
Lawrence Frank, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, has completed a number of studies confirming the findings of the Australian researchers. He has reported distinct advantages for children who live not only in safe neighborhoods, but also those with sidewalks. Hard to imagine, but a significant number of suburban subdivisions and entire towns have been developed without sidewalks.
Research shows parents are reluctant to let their kids walk to school or play outside due to worries about crime and traffic safety. Another major drawback is lack of parks or open space for kids to play. The Australian researchers suggested that parents stop driving children to school whenever possible, allowing them to walk with friends or maybe “walk-pooling” in which one parent takes responsibility each day for walking a group of kids.