by Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager, Nature Canada
Excessive screen time is becoming a public health issue. We have seen a dramatic shift in the way Canadian kids and teens are spending their time, with less time playing outside, and more time spent indoors, sedentary and screen-based. Too much time on screens – video games, smartphones, tablets, computers and television – is having a negative impact on children’s physical, mental and social health.
Nature Canada’s report, Screen Time vs Green Time: The Health Impacts of too
much Screen Time, exposes the negative health impacts excessive screen time is having on Canadian children.
Here are a few of the report’s findings
- 87% of pre-school children and 85% of school-aged children do not meet the guidelines for adequate sleep, physical activity and screen time;
- Students in grades 7 to 12 are spending up to 7 hours a day on screens, more than three and a half times the recommended limit of 2 hours per day;
- Higher durations of screen time were linked with poorer behavioural conduct and lower self-esteem;
- Adolescents who spend more time on social media and smart phones are more likely to report mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Nature and Health
At the same time, we know that time spent in nature and being active outdoors is beneficial to children’s health and overall well-being, and helps improve their resiliency, academic performance and social skills. Time in nature can boost children’s mood, and helps them manage stress and anxiety.When children spend time outside in nature, they find opportunities to learn, explore, discover and understand the natural environment. And it helps to build a strong connection and lifelong love and appreciation of the natural world.
The good news is spending time in nature is as easy as walking out your front door.
7 ways to limit screen time and spend more time in nature
- Model behaviour by limiting your own screen time around your kids;
- Establish family boundaries to promote healthy screen habits (e.g. no screens at the dinner table, create a morning routine that doesn’t include a screen);
- Develop a family screen schedule that works for your family (e.g. 30 mins after school, Saturday morning);
- Create morning and bedtime routines that do not rely on screens;
- Make it easy to build outdoor play into your day. Walk to school and give yourself enough time to walk slowly and look at the birds;
- Schedule time for nature together, such as an after-dinner walk or a weekend nature hike;
- Join a nature club for a range of nature-based activities and events for families.