How much time are kids spending outside?

A better question to ask is “how little time are today’s kids spending outside?”

What is Nature Deficit Disorder?

It’s not an official medical diagnosis… it’s a term coined by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, to describe the limited exposure to nature experienced by many children today. This is a sample of surveys from the U.S., U.K, Australia, Denmark and other countries:

How much (how little) time are kids spending outside?

  • 1 in 10 kids today play outside once a week or less.
  • Mothers of 1 – 12 year olds were asked what activities their children do outside of school and 72% say watch TV, 58% say play outdoors.
  • Amongst kids age 6 – 12, 78% participated in outdoor activities in 2006. By 2009, that dropped to 62%. For girls, outdoor time declines as they get older. 60% participate in outdoor recreation when they’re 6 – 12 years old, but by age 13 – 18, only 51% do.
  • 88% of youth (13 – 18) spend time online every day, 69% play video games or watch TV daily. 58% do homework daily. But fewer than 40% do these activities even weekly: visiting a natural area outdoors, visiting a park, creek or beach, going hiking, fishing or hunting.

Kids are spending much less time outside than their parents did.

Today’s adults say when they were kids… Today’s children
Play outside every day 71% 21%
Play outdoors more often than indoors 73% 13%
Climb trees 64% 20%
Had a patch of nature near house 75% 64%
Went to patch of nature 1-2 times a week 50% <25%
Visit natural setting every day in summer 59% of grandparents, 42% of parents 26%
Number of neighbor kids to play with Average: 14 Average: 6
Close enough to walk or bike to school 75% 37%
Favorite place to play was indoors 16% 41%

This is despite the fact that kids and parents think kids should be outside more.

  • 73% of grandparents and 54% of parents say children do not spend enough time in nature.
  • 73% of mothers said their children would rather play outside than inside. 47% are concerned their children don’t spend enough time playing outside.
  • 80% of children prefer playing outside to playing indoors. 86% prefer outdoor activities to playing computer games. 72% want to play outside more often.
  • Even though 29% of adults do not allow their kids to play unsupervised outdoors, 85% said they would like their kids to be able to. 81% of children want more freedom to play outside.

The reasons given by parent and kids? They’re too busy / too many scheduled activities. It’s not safe to go outside (traffic, stranger danger, etc.). It’s too expensive or too far to travel to outdoor recreation opportunities. When they do go play outside, there’s no other kids out there to play with…

So, does it matter? Is there any harm in this reduced connection to nature?

Over the next few days, I will be posting about

  • the risks of Nature Deficit Disorder the benefits of time outdoors, and
  • perceived barriers to outside time
  • ideas for overcoming those barriers

Stay tuned…

In the meantime, check out the video linked above for some reminders about why outside time is important to kids.

Sources:

www.playday.org.uk/playday-campaigns/2007-our-streets-too/playday-2007-research; TreeDay.PlanetArk.org/ClimbingTrees; www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/Childhood%20and%20Nature%20Survey_tcm6-10515.pdf; Common Sense Media; www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ResearchParticipation2013.pdf; www.nature.org/newsfeatures/kids-in-nature/youth-and-nature-poll-results.pdf; www.childrenandnature.org/downloads/CECCNNWorldwideResearch.pdf; www.playday.org.uk/playday-campaigns/2006-play-naturally.aspx

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3 thoughts on “How much time are kids spending outside?

  1. This is very interesting. I wonder what the statistics for Japan are. I would imagine they are similar to Australia. We spend a lot of time outdoors, but it is a conscious and conscientious effort to do so. If asked, my 3 year old (yo) would opt to play online games, but once we are outdoors she enjoys it. My 4yo and 1yo much prefer to be outdoors catching gecko, beetles, zarigani and all manner of insects. They all like to ride their bikes or in 1yo’s case a push along. However, often when we go to a park or a nature reserve, we are the only ones there, especially in winter. It would be wonderful to see more children playing outdoors. Follwing your blog now, with much interest. 🙂

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