Kids in the United Kingdom (UK) are the ultimate couch potatoes, according to a recent survey funded by laundry detergent brand Persil, which found that 1 in 3 children in the UK spend less time outside than inmates in maximum security prisons. Persil conducted the research as part of its “Dirt is Good” marketing campaign.

Persil questioned the parents of more than 12,000 children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old in 10 different countries. Kids in the UK were found to play outside for 30 minutes or less on an average day, and 1 in 5 never go outside at all. [1]

James Hayhurst, the global equity director for Persil/Omo at Unilever, said of the disturbing findings:

“We were shocked when we discovered that children today were enjoying as little time outside as prisoners.”

The United Nations’ (UN) standard minimum guidelines for prisoners require “at least 1 hour of suitable exercise in open air daily.” [2]

Some 62% of parents polled said they believe their children has fewer opportunities to play than they did. The top reasons for the decrease in the amount of outdoor play were listed as unreliable British weather (82%), lack of time (31%), and children wanting to stay inside (31%), with 77% of parents admitting that their kids often refuse to play games that don’t involve technology.

Three-quarters of parents said their child prefers to play virtual sports on a screen indoors versus playing “real” sports outside.

As a result, many children in the UK are clueless about and detached from nature. More than half were unable to identify an oak tree, and 64% couldn’t identify a Crocus flower.

outdoorplay
Source: Mother Nature Network

However, Justin Bieber was easily identified by 80% of kids, and 71% of kids were quite familiar with the British girl band Little Mix.

Mark Sears, chief wild officer at The Wild Network, described on the group’s website as “A growing movement of people on a mission to re-wild childhood,” said:

“This research highlights everything that we know about today’s children – they aren’t getting enough outdoor play and it has serious consequences. Yet the evidence is overwhelming – outdoor play is vital for children, it makes them happier and healthier. Free the Kids.” [3]

Free the Kids is the title of a film made in a maximum security prison illustrating the lack of outdoor play.

The Need for Nature, Outdoors

Being intimately familiar with the likes of Justin Bieber is quite a harsh consequence of being disconnected from nature, for children and parents. But lack of outdoor play has other consequences, too, such as vitamin D deficiency. The sun is there for important reasons, after all – not just to cause a glare on the TV while plump, sedentary kids with a Play-Doh-like body type play Xbox.

Connecting with nature helps kids reach their full potential by helping them discover their gifts. A 2012 study published in PLOS One found that dragging kids away from their video game consoles and iPads and out into the fresh air for just 4 days boosted their creativity by 50%. Simply looking at nature has been shown to help the brain function better, which translates to better grades and test scores for youngsters.

And Persil is right – dirt is good. A few muddy fingernails and grass-stained knees never hurt anyone. Humans need dirt, and bacteria, to have healthy immune systems.

British children are growing up to be brain dead, pale, doughy zombies, and it’s sad. Even the prisoners inside Indiana’s Wabash maximum security prison, where Free the Kids was filmed, think so.

Said one prisoner:

“That’s depressing.”

Yes, it certainly is.

Sources:

[1] WKBW Buffalo

[2] Business Insider

[3] Express

Mother Nature Network


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.