Let’s swap “screen time” for “green time” these school holidays. The Christmas school holidays are here again and it’s time to reduce the kid’s screentime and get them out into the fresh air.

These days, kids spend a lot more time inside than most of us did at the same age.

With the rise of technology in recent decades, we have witnessed a shift in the way that people, especially young people, are spending their spare time. Gone are the days of having one television set with four channels and one telephone stuck to the wall in a central position of the house.

These days many households have a tv in every room with a variety of streaming services enticing us to binge-watch every chance we get. Even more sinister is the screen that goes everywhere with us.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology by any stretch, I love tinkering with the latest gadgets and I understand the incredible benefits and convenience it has brought to our lives but I also love going to the beach, swimming, gardening, camping and a long list of other activities.

Technology is not evil…we just need to find some balance between “screen time” and “green time” especially for young people.

In Australia, it is recommended that children have no more than 2 hours of screen time per day but these days most kids spend on average 3 hours on top of the screen time at school and anywhere up to 7 hours.

As a result young people are spending less time outdoors and more time in front of a screen. This may be having a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health and well-being.

According to a peer-reviewed journal published September 4, 2020 “High levels of screen time appeared to be associated with unfavourable psychological outcomes while green time appeared to be associated with favourable psychological outcomes.” (Read the full article)

Many of us will remember spending our school holidays out riding a bike with our friends, playing cricket, swimming, building cubby houses, exploring and the list goes on. We knew that if we hung around the house eventually mum or dad would find jobs for us to do. So after breakfast, we were out of there all the while adhering to the universal rule of making sure you’re home when the street lights come on.

It’s sad to see the kids of today missing out on this simple but fundamentally important part of their development.

However, all is not lost. Although there have been major changes in the way children are living their lives, most kids when they actually get off the couch and go outside, find that they are pleasantly surprised.

Spending time outdoors is enjoyable but it’s also essential. Many experts agree that children who spend more time playing outdoors are happier, have higher levels of self-confidence, experience lower levels of anxiety and are generally healthier than those who choose to spend most of their time indoors.

Playing outdoors in a less structured environment teaches children to navigate their own way through the world, deciding on how they interact with nature.
This helps to build an awareness of their physical capabilities while encouraging imagination and creativity.

Being outside also brings with it a sense of responsibility as there are very real consequences for their actions. For example, if they are looking after a garden, they learn that if they neglect its needs it will suffer.

Outside play is a great way for kids to get moving. No matter what they are doing it’s likely to be more active than sitting on a couch and can be especially beneficial for children with ADHD or depression. It also helps kids to feel less stressed.
So, although screen time is the easier and more popular choice, it’s important to make time to get outside and see the world first-hand.

Living in Queensland, this could not be easier. We have it all here, some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, rainforests, freshwater swimming holes, islands to visit, and an abundance of wildlife, mountains and nature walks to explore. Most of all, we have the perfect climate for kids to get out and get active.

Life has never been busier for parents, many families with both parents working or families with working single parents and too often children are being left to their electronic devices as a result. It’s tough to balance work and life these days but we can’t let that be the reason our children don’t get to experience real-life outside of the home.

It’s up to us adults, from days gone by, to show the kids what this life has to offer. Teach them that the world is not how it is seen through a lens. That the beach isn’t a place to fear but a place to respect and enjoy. It is our responsibility to make sure our kids have the skills and confidence to engage with the natural world and most of all, learn to love it. After all, how can we expect them to take care of the natural world without loving it?

We too will benefit from putting our devices down more often and spending some quality time outdoors with our kids, our friends and our families. Remember, it’s not just fun — it’s necessary.

We are not victims of change, we are the creators of it.

Now, what are you going to do this summer?