Green time is much more stimulating than screen time, but it’s not accessible to everyone

Children learn incredibly fast. Just like a sponge they absorb everything what’s new, developing new skills and knowledge about the world. They are also highly drawn to screens, which is not that bad, if they are learning something, right? Scientists from the University of Adelaide reviewed 186 studies from around the world and found that time outside is way more important than screen time.

Children from lower socioeconomic levels spend more time on screens, because safe green areas are less accessible to them. Image credit: Frettie via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0)

You’ve been a kid, you know this – children love watching TV, playing video games or, nowadays, watching videos on the internet. Some of the content they consume is educational, which makes some parents believe that it may actually be beneficial for their children. However, the truth is that screen time works pretty much like babysitting for most parents – they enjoy the quietness, brought by their children getting immersed in electronic devices.

Screen time is also safe – children are not going to go anywhere, while they have something to play with. Meanwhile when children are running around outside, they are constantly in a risk of falling over or bumping into something. However, this new study shows that staying outside is actually much more beneficial.

Scientists reviewed a lot of studies from all over the world and found that time spent in the natural environment is associated with favourable psychological outcomes including lower levels of mental illness, superior cognitive functioning, and higher academic achievement. Outside world is much more stimulating than you think it is. Also, children exercise more when they are outside, which is always good for one’s mental and physical health.

However, scientists also found that it is children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds that do not get enough of green time. This is because their parents don’t have the time or resources to take their children to areas suitable for outdoor activities. Poor families oftentimes live in harsh urban environments, which are not suitable for safe outdoor play. This leaves these children in a disadvantage, particularly considering benefits for mental health. 

Researcher Tassia Oswald, who conducted the study, said: “Providing parents, teachers, researchers, policy makers, and young people themselves with a summary of what evidence is out there may help them understand the psychological impacts of exposure to screen-based technologies and natural environments to ensure optimal well-being.”

Children should spend more time outside. Screens are always going to be there. Playing outside will boost their immunity, foster their creativity, improve their mental and physical health.


Source: University of Adelaide

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