Do you remember as a child when the rain would ruin your plans for the day because you couldn’t go outside to play with your friends? Did your parents call you in each evening with a particular shout – “Tommy! Dinner!” Did your friends come to your door on summer mornings, imploring you to “come out and play?” Unfortunately, these days children are more likely to stay in and play. According to a nationwide poll from The Nature Conservancy, most children watch TV, use a computer, and/or play video games every day, but only 10% of kids spend time outdoors on a daily basis (source). If you think this isn’t a big deal, you’re in for a rude awakening. There are numerous negative effects of staying indoors on kids.
Negative Effects of Staying Indoors on Kids
Let’s start with one of the most serious negative effects of staying indoors on kids. When children stay inside, they tend to spend their time doing sedentary things like watching TV, sitting on the couch, exploring the Internet, and playing video games. Children need at least an hour of moderate or vigorous exercise each day, and an indoor lifestyle makes this difficult to achieve. This inactivity can lead to weight gain, reduced bone strength, and poor cardiovascular health, amongst other concerning health consequences.
Poor Social Skills
When young people play outdoors, they are more likely to play with others, and their social skills are influenced by these interactions. Children who play outdoors are more likely to develop relationships with other children, and their social skills improve as a result. Children who stay indoors most of the time, on the other hand, are more likely to engage in solitary activities that don’t allow them to stretch their social muscles. Technology is a poor substitute for social interaction in the “real world.”
Dependency on Electronics
Although an addiction to electronics is not yet a clinical diagnosis in the United States, there is no doubt in the minds of parents or experts that today’s youths are “plugged in” to an unhealthy extent. It starts at an early age, as parents hand their toddlers cellphones for entertainment and distraction. By the time they are 8-10 years old, most children spend nearly 8 hours a day with various media. That statistic jumps to 11 hours of electronics a day for teenagers (source). Consider limiting your children’s use of electronics to decrease their dependency.
Lack of Creativity
Children need first-hand, multi-sensory engagement to learn about the world and boost their brain development. Although there is not definitive research yet, it seems that a lack of physical playtime has also led to a decrease in creativity. Researchers have found that creativity is dwindling amongst children for the first time in history, especially amongst younger children (source). It is speculated that this is because active playtime fosters a child’s imagination, original thinking, and problem solving skills. Screens simply can’t compete with real people and things when it comes to creativity and brain development.
Dissociation from Nature
When children spend most of their time indoors, they become disconnected from nature. And if you think a lack of appreciation for the great outdoors isn’t concerning, think again! Not only will these children lack knowledge of the natural world and how humans interact with it, but they may also care less about preserving and protecting the environment. Public policy regarding environmental protection may someday be influenced by today’s sedentary youth.
Now that you know the negative effects of staying indoors on kids, it’s time to head outside! Grab your kids and show them how fun, exciting, and beautiful the great outdoors can be. You could go for a hike, play basketball in the park, or (our personal favorite) go fishing!
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