Who Gets Outside More, Prison Inmates Or Kids?

Throughout history, all over the world, outdoor play has been seen as a crucial part of childhood. Many of us remember our parents commanding us to go play outside, and can recall a time when being sentenced to go to our rooms and deprived of outside time was a notable punishment.

However, things are different for many of today’s kids. More and more children are spending their days indoors, usually with their eyes fixed to a screen. Furthermore, a new survey performed by researchers in the UK has released some disturbing statistics: children around the world now spend less time outside each day than prison inmates.

That’s right… many prison inmates spend twice as much time outside as children. Atrocious? Most definitely.

The survey, conducted by laundry detergent brands Persil and OMO, through the independent market research firm Edelman Berland, involved the parents of 12,000 children between the ages of five and 12 across 10 nations: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Portugal, Turkey, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam. 

Results of the survey found that one-third of children studied spent less than 30 minutes outside each day. Half of the children studied spent less than one hour outside on a daily basis. It was also found that children spent an average of twice as much time looking at screens as they did playing outside.

On the other hand, many maximum security prisons in the United States allow inmates two hours of outdoor time every day.

In response to this survey, Persil and OMO launched a new campaign entitled “Dirt is Good — Free the Children.” The campaign, based in the UK, is an initiative in support of outdoor play. The Dirt is Good website states:

“Today, the average child spends less free time outside than a maximum-security prisoner. It’s critical we take action. Our mission? To give children the freedom to get outdoors: to play and learn, and get dirty, too — because by doing so children learn essential skills. Things like curiosity, resilience, inventiveness, independence and bravery — all critical for the future.”

The fact that so many children across the globe are spending less time outside than convicted felons is alarming. Spending time immersed in nature is important for everyone — it has been scientifically linked to health benefits including improved immunity, enhanced creativity, better sleep, faster healing rates, relief from anxiety and depression, and better overall health.

While everyone should be outside as much as possible, children, who are in their formative years, especially need time outdoors to thrive. So, what can parents do about this? The answer is really quite simple: take your kids outside! For the little ones who need to be accompanied, take a trip to the park or playground, ride bikes, or just take a nature walk. 

For older children, who may be difficult to separate from their iPads and iPhones, limiting screen time may be a necessity. Taking a family camping trip is one way to help instill a love of the great outdoors in kids of any age. Remember: kids learn by example, so if you yourself get outside, chances are they will want to go, too. 

To encourage schools to get involved, the Dirt is Good campaign holds an Empty Classroom Day for kids. Schools who sign up for the program vow to conduct at least one lesson in the outdoors. This year’s Empty Classroom Day is scheduled for June 17, 2016.

While this is a start, if more lessons were held outside on a regular basis — on as many weather-permitting days as possible, students would benefit greatly. Not only would they be getting the benefits of the outdoors, the lessons might become more fun, as well. 

Overall, we as a society need to change our mindset from a lifestyle of sitting at desks, to one of active engagement with the outside world. Kids shouldn’t be sitting in stuffy rooms all day — they need to play outside much more often than they are now. If this was encouraged by both parents and schools, the next generation may be a whole lot healthier, and happier.

—Tanya Rakhmilevich

Tanya is a writer at The Alternative Daily with a passion for meditation, music, poetry, and overall creative and active living. She has a special interest in exploring traditional Eastern remedies and superfoods from around the globe, and enjoys spending time immersed in nature.



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