There is a significant class and wealth gap that means children from poorer families spend a lot less time outside, according to a new study.
Wealthy children spend twice as much time outside than those from lower income families, and today’s children spend on average 365 fewer hours outside a year than their parents did.
This adds up to 4,748 hours over their school years – the equivalent of seven months of time.
The study, conducted by Oxford Home Schooling, found that children now spend an average of 1.6 hours a day playing outside, which is an hour (63%) less than their parents did growing up.
Almost half (49%) of parents surveyed said that they think their child needs to spend more time outdoors, and almost two in five (39%) said that technology is the main reason that their child plays indoors.
On average, children spend two and a half hours a day on technology – 56% more time than they spend playing outside.
Interestingly, family income is a huge factor, with children in wealthier homes spending more than twice as much time outdoors than those in lower-earning households.
Where parents earn over £70,000, children average 2.5 hours a day outside, compared to families with an income of £20-30,000, where the average stands at 1.2 hours.
The richer parents also played outside more as children, as their children do now, which suggests that this pattern will continue with generations to come.
Despite children spending less time outside, the data suggests that they do enjoy it when they venture out. Almost nine in ten (89%) parents say their children like playing outdoors and a similar number (86%) say that they prefer it to spending time in the house.
The findings are significant because there are recorded, tangible benefits associated with spending time outside.
Studies have found that being outside can help improve your mental health, with proximity to nature having the ability to reduce stress and anxiety.
The effect is so strong that just looking out of your window and observing greenery can lower stress levels.
It also has lots of physical health benefits. We tend to move our bodies more when we are outside, and we have a natural exposure to Vitamin D from the sun.
One study even found that children who spent more time outside were less likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness).
Greg Smith, Head of Operations at Oxford Home Schooling, says: ‘We encourage all families to spend as much time outside with their children as much as possible. This is one of the benefits of home schooling, with the lack of the curriculum, you and your child have freedom with learning.’
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