Survey: Young Canadians spend an hour or less outside each day
According to a cross-country study, 21st century Canadian youth are spending very little time outdoors.
The survey, conducted on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation in the spring of 2012, found that 70 per cent of 13- to 20-year-olds spend an hour or less outside each day. They say school, work and other chores make it difficult for them to take part in outdoor programs or spend unstructured time exploring nature. In comparison, an American survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found young people spend an average of seven and a half hours a day on entertainment media.
“Our survey shows that as a society we don’t put a priority on spending time outside,” says Leanne Clare from the David Suzuki Foundation. This also suggests, says Clare, that parents and the school system put a greater emphasis on indoor tasks and activities, which affects how young people spend their time.
When they do venture outside, youth spend much of their time in and around their neighbourhoods, with their friends and travelling by foot or on wheels. This highlights the importance of creating and maintaining natural areas close to where we live. Schools also play a pivotal role in getting kids outside, with over two thirds of respondents saying they participated in outdoor or nature programming through their school or on a field trip.
The survey also points to the important role of parents and families in getting kids—especially younger teens—to spend time outside. “Getting outside as a family can help create a nature habit,” says Clare. “We found that if youth spend time outside when they’re young, they’re 20 per cent more likely to take part in outdoor programs or to explore nature on their own when they’re older.”
Encouragingly, 58 per cent of youth engage in some type of unstructured outdoor activity, such as observing wildlife, hiking, arts-based activities or even just catching bugs. Since these kinds of activities strongly appeal to young people, families and communities should encourage young people to spend more time exploring their curiosity about the natural world.
To help Canadian families spend more time outdoors, the David Suzuki Foundation has created the Back to school? Get back outside! challenge asking families to do four outdoor activities. Also check OutdoorCanada.ca for articles such as “The basics of fishing with kids”, “6 ways to get kids hooked on fishing” and the best rifles or bird guns for young people.