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Kids now spending less time outdoors than prison inmates... total detachment from the natural world breeds mental illness

Prison inmates

(NaturalNews) Are our children becoming tech-obsessed couch potatoes who are totally detached from the outdoor world? According to a new survey, funded by laundry detergent Persil/Omo, children spend less time outdoors than high-security prisoners.

In 2014, an article published on the website of Nature Play SA – a nonprofit devoted to advocacy for outside play time – reported that 87 percent of Australian children spend more time playing indoors than outdoors.

Griffin Longley, the CEO of Nature Play SA, was the first to make the comparison between prisoners and children. The thought inspired James Hayhurst, Persil's global equity director, to commission their own independent research.

They questioned over 12,000 parents of children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old in 10 different countries and confirmed the statement.

"Sadly, it is true," says Hayhurst. "Although parents recognize and value the importance of play, a variety of factors such as lack of time, lack of safe places to play, and time spent on scheduled activities, combine to limit how much time kids spend playing."

Prisoners in high-security facilities are allowed one to two hours of outside time, while most of our children don't even come close to an hour. The study found that almost one-third of children in the UK play outside for 30 minutes or less, and one in five don't go outdoors at all.

Free the kids

Multiple studies have shown that outdoor play is of vital importance for the development of essential character traits such as curiosity, resilience, inventiveness, independence and bravery.

Over the past decade, Persil has tried to encourage children to spend more time outdoor through the "Dirt is Good" marketing campaign.

Their new spot, "Free the Kids," takes you insides Indiana's Wabash Maximum Security Prison. When prisoners were told that today's kids spend fewer hours outside than they are allowed, they all were shocked and reacted with great astonishment and sadness. For them, the one- to two-hour outdoor time means everything.

While prisoners and children aren't quite the same thing, the point is made.

Watch the video clip below:

"We are intentionally highlighting the statistic that we have found: that prison inmates, the people with the least freedom in the world, spend more time outside than children spend outside playing today," says Hayhurst. "Parents around the world are telling us that it [the film] has a profound impact on them. The film makes them think about ways to get their children outside more, which is exactly the point."

Are our children screen-obsessed?

Most of us will remember a childhood with hours of outdoor time. What did change over the years to make our children lose all connectivity with the natural world?

UK parents blame the lack of opportunity, unreliable British weather and lack of time as the main reasons why their children do not venture outside. However, according to Persil's study, the weather and time are not the only things to be blamed.

The rapid growth of technology seems to be the main culprit. While our children are definitely benefiting from coming in contact with technology from a very young age, playing has become increasingly digitized, and they've lost nearly all interest in outdoor play and nature.

Almost 8 out of 10 parents who took part in the study said their children often refuse to play outside without some form of technology being involved. They prefer to play virtual sports in front of a screen rather than going outside and doing the actual thing.

Persil is working with leading partners, such as The Wild Network and Empty Classroom Day, to help families rediscover outdoor play. According to Mark Sears of The Wild Network, outdoor play is vital for children; it makes them happier and healthier. A multitude of studies lend credence to this belief and also show that exercise and time spent outdoors improves academic performance and can help decrease risk of depression, cancer, diabetes, near-sightedness and many other health issues.

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