UK parents call for outdoor learning to tackle digital dependent children

Published Thursday 6th, September 2018

 

As children across the UK return to school this week, parents of young children are calling for Outdoor Learning to be embedded into the school curriculum. New research conducted online by the National Forest, reveals time spent playing outdoors is alarmingly low while online consumption is disturbingly high, despite one of the warmest British summers on record.

Increased access to digital technology has contributed to ‘DAD’ or Digital Addiction Disorder amongst UK children aged 5-18, says The National Forest. 

According to child psychology expert Dr Sam Wass, children prefer staying indoors exploring the virtual world than the real world, and lack access to safe green spaces.

But work in the National Forest shows that schools can offer a solution, with outdoor learning now increasing dramatically across its 200 square miles. 

 

KEY SURVEY FINDINGS

  • 78% of all UK parents believe more should be done to ensure that outdoor learning is part of the national curriculum
  • Over 6 in 10 (61%) of all UK parents consider their children happier after playing or learning outdoors
  • One in 10 UK (11%) children aged 5-18 don’t spend any time playing outdoors in a typical week
  • Two thirds (67%) of UK parents believe their children spend too much time using modern technology
  • More than a quarter of UK children spend less than 9 minutes per day playing activities outdoors
  • 37% of UK parents believe there is an inadequate amount of safe outdoor woodland and green space in their local area to encourage their children to play outdoors (43% in London)
  • Only 14% of UK parents believe their children prefer playing outdoors to playing indoors on the internet
  • More than half of UK children (58%) are online for an average 2.26 hours each day, excluding school
  • More than half of UK parents (54%) believe the increasing use of technology is driving a disconnect to nature with their children
  • Nearly a third of parents (32%) think modern technology is having a negative impact on their children’s ability to interact verbally and express themselves with people around them  
  • 73% of all UK parents said their children spend less time playing outdoors during the summer holidays than they did when they were a child

 

The survey of more than 4,333 UK adults, of which 733 were parents of children aged 5 to 18 years old, revealed that more than three quarters (78%) of all UK parents of this age group believe more should be done to ensure outdoor learning is part of the UK school curriculum. Two thirds (67%) agree that their children spend too much time using modern technology, while 54% think the increasing use of technology is driving a disconnect to nature for their children, despite 61% believing their children are happier after playing or learning outdoors.

Modern children today are more interested in digital technology than being outdoors. The research found that only 14% of UK parents believe their child prefers playing outdoors to playing indoors on the internet, with over half of UK children (58%) now spending on average 2.26 hours each day online, excluding school time. Across the year that equates to 825.42 hrs or 34.3 consecutive days online.  

The survey was commissioned by the National Forest Company, the not-for-profit organisation leading the creation of the National Forest in the heart of England, a regeneration success story through the planting trees and therefore creating a better way of life for local people, businesses and schools.

The Creating a Forest for Learning initiative is working with the 87 primary schools within the 200 square miles of the National Forest to encourage them all to engage in regular outdoor learning for children.  By training teachers in outdoor learning skills and creating outdoor classrooms within school grounds or local woodlands, schools are able to overcome the barriers of cost, transport, expertise and risk that prevent children learning outdoors.  

 

John Everitt, CEO of the National Forest Company, said:

“At the National Forest we understand the importance of natural play and Outdoor Learning being vital to a healthy childhood. Outdoor learning significantly improves all aspects of child development – physical, cognitive, social and emotional, and can grow resilience, self-confidence, initiative, and creativity.”

“The National Forest’s Creating a Forest for Learning initiative has set a new goal to stem the tide and get children outdoors. We’re showing that schools can embrace regular outdoor learning sessions through simple measures that overcome the current barriers.  Outdoor learning can provide a break from technology to help us create a generation of happier, healthier children with more awareness and connection to the natural world.”

 

To donate to The National Forest go to www.nationalforest.org/donate or for further information on Creating a Forest for Learning visit www.nationalforest.org/creating-a-forest-for-learning/sign-up

Image credit: National Forest