Kids Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prisoners

Prisoners get 2 hours of sunshine and fresh air each day, most children get less than one

Imagination Grove (a nature play area) at Sugar Grove Nature Center, McLean, IL, June 2011.


While inmates at maximum security prisons in the U.S. are guaranteed at least 2 hours of outdoor time a day, half of children worldwide spend less than an hour outside, reports

A survey of 12,000 parents in 10 countries found that one-third of children (ages 5 to 12) spend less than 30 minutes outside each day. The survey, sponsored by Unilever laundry detergent brands OMO and Persil, inspired a new marketing campaign – “Dirt is Good – Free the Children.”

The short film below – documenting prisoners’ responses to the survey – is part of that campaign:

Prisoners at a maximum security facility in Indiana called outdoor time the “highlight” of their day.  “You take all your problems and frustrations and just leave them out there,” one prisoner said. Another said “it keeps his mind right.

When asked how they would feel about having their “yard time” reduced to one hour a day, inmates responded that it would build more anger and resentment. One inmate said it would be “torture.” A prison guard said it would be “potentially disastrous.”

The prisoners are shocked upon learning that most children have less than an hour of outdoor time per day, one of them calling the news “depressing.” Another said if he could have one wish granted it would be that he could take his kid to a park.

Another study found that one in nine children “have not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least 12 months.”

Huffington Post reported recently that with children today spending only half the time their parents did outdoors, we are producing an “unsociable, unimaginative and inactive generation.” Only half of children have ever built a sandcastle at the beach or had a picnic outside of their own yard, and over a third have never played in the mud. Also, about half of children opt for screen time alone over playing with others outdoors.

In addition to “unsociable, unimaginative and inactive” – our culture’s lack of outdoor time is producing children who are physically and mentally ill:

“We are physically active when we spend time outdoors, so we are less likely to become obese. When sunshine hits our skin, we form Vitamin D, which helps with a number of health issues. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that time spent outside lowers rates of heart disease, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, and some forms of cancer. Kids with ADHD focus better when they spend time outdoors. And, nature time leads to more positive moods, as well as lower stress and anxiety.”

RELATED: How Prison Labor is the New American Slavery





53 responses to “Kids Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prisoners”

  1. Holly Guldager Avatar
    Holly Guldager

    Love it!

  2. Yuppeffif Avatar

    They’re gonna get in trouble outside or on the internet. It’s your choice, World. I’m pretty sure the natural world isn’t as likely to see interspecies fornication as the internet world, but whaddaiknow? 😛

  3. Micayla Avatar

    While I agree with the overall point, I am curious where you got the information the information in the first sentence. I don’t think that is correct at all.

    1. John Avatar

      The answer to that is in the second sentence.

      1. K Avatar

        … but that website doesn’t name a source, either.

  4. […] you read this article about how little time outside the average kid gets? Pretty sad right? If you haven’t read it […]

  5. Kerstin Avatar

    Just reading the head line makes me say ‘ yeah, cause they’re at school and day care all day long, and indoor camps during breaks.’ And, of course, inside and in front of screens when they’re home…unless they’re at one of their scheduled activities of course (for which the parents have to put them in day care/after care to afford those…) … It’s sad indeed.

    1. Janis McCain Avatar

      Your right what you said. I was a 50s kid and I was outside all the time playing and creating. I have two grown boys and they were very happy with me and there dad cause they experienced both worlds….feeling and knowing our earth and computer age. I’d take outside any old day.

    2. Job Avatar


  6. Emma Avatar

    “…half of children worldwide…”? From a study involving 10 countries? So according to this article only a few westernised countries make up the whole world. Say what you actually mean, please. This is an issue that only affects the developed world. It does not affect the vast majority of children (or people) in developing countries. Western countries are not “the world”.

    1. Frédérique Avatar

      Perfect! Couldn’t have said it any better!

    2. Nancy Bruning Avatar

      If you had bothered to click through before assuming, you would have learned: * Research was conducted by Edelman Berland, an independent market research firm. Fieldwork was conducted in February and March 2016 in US, Brazil, UK, Turkey, Portugal, South Africa, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and India.

      1. Margarite Avatar

        Nice to read an educated response. Thank you Nancy.

    3. Margarite Avatar

      Nothing positive to say? Sad!

    4. P.J Avatar

      Invalid argument. Most of the world is westernised, this article speaks to those who are because those who aren’t won’t be reading it. Any person with a phone or internet is part of the westernised world in some degree.

      And also according to Americans the whole world consists of america while everyone else is just there…

      So yes it can be the whole world. And secondly you don’t have to do research and find all kinds of sources to prove what is clearly perceived in front of you. This article brings to light an issue that we seem to miss because our pathetic western mentality seems to keep us so preoccupied with ourselves we forget our children.

      The proof everyone is looking for is sitting in their own houses watching netflix while on facebook and instagram simultaneously.

      The parts of the world that are not westernised are minor and those you think are still developing are so far developed that they count as westernised, they just don’t have european or american standards of self cleaning toilets and all the crap you consider as developed countries…

      They have cellphones, they have internet, thet have schools and tv and if I recall this article claims those things as the issue…too much tv, too much time indoors…too much anything other than play…and as for those countries that are really underdeveloped, they don’t have the same issues because they all too busy surviving and working to help sustain themselves so let’s look at their issues differently than ours

  7. […] OUTSIDE TIME: Do your kids get enough? I would like ours to have more, but in my eyes there is never enough. We have been lucky in Quito because we have an amazing park just two blocks away and in Costa Rica we had a huge yard. I hope the next location has the same access to green space. […]

  8. Jane Scruggs Avatar
    Jane Scruggs

    What is your source for your claim in the first sentence? That inmates in max security prisons are guaranteed two hours outside per day?

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    What’s up it’s me, I am also visiting this site regularly, this web site is
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  10. […] by it. If we provide an enriching environment, time to spend contemplating and exploring, access to real experiences outside and in the community, and availability to interact and discuss with them what’s on their minds, […]

  11. Suzanne Avatar

    Why do people have to analyze everything to bits and try to make a negative out of something that someone is trying to share that’s positive .
    Basically they are saying children and adults actually, are becoming more and more disconnected from nature, we aren’t meant to live in a box!

    1. Jana Avatar

      I thought the overall message was conveyed very simple. I’m like you, the exact numbers weren’t the point

  12. Amanda Avatar

    Thank you, this is a good read. In the developed world we have to put forth more effort than before to get kids outside. The benefits are so obvious though, it’s worth it.

  13. Mandy Avatar

    Wow, this information not only makes me sad but some of the comments make me sad as well! I have no doubt that the information is true and it is unfortunate that rather than acknowledging the issue and thinking of things we could do to make changes in the life of a child around us their are people commenting who would rather focus on the disection of the research and live in some fog that kids are living a far more sedentary life these days either in front of a tv, computer or holding a phone where they are getting the tv and computer in one place plus more! Negative comments meant to downplay the reality that our kids are not getting the socialization and just plain “kid fun” that they really do need are not going to fix any problem. This is not to say that kids getting outside will solve the evils of the world but I believe it could be a small factor in a pretty big equation! Open your minds and eyes!

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  19. Jen Avatar

    Eh. I actually feel super encouraged reading this. I guess I’m not doing THAT bad.

    But seriously, it IS hard to get kids out when you live up North. It’s not always a matter of both parents working so they can afford to put their kids into daycare and sports, so that’s pretty judgemental. You can look at any study and find that parents have more responsibilities now than they used to. Couple that with the number of child abductions and the increase in population, and you can easily see why some parents opt to give their kid an iPad or whatever while they tackle chores that need done.

    Let’s be honest, it is NOT safe everywhere for kids to be unattended outside. It’s also not possible, given the number of single parents, for every parent to take evenings off from household duties so they can watch their kids outside. It is tough, no matter which way you look at this issue, so let’s not blame and be judgey, please.

    1. Violet Avatar

      There aren’t more child abductions today. Let your kids out. I walked to and from school in the snow up north. It is more dangerous to drive your kid in a car than it is to let them play outside.

    2. Gail Gardner Avatar

      Search for EMF iPad and you may realize it is more dangerous to their health to allow them to use wireless devices than to risk going outside.

  20. […] Kids Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prisoners […]

  21. Mantras Avatar

    It’s because mosquitoes.

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  25. Lemsip Avatar

    Even on a nice warm sunny day I see mothers with young children congregating in cafes so they can gossip about their children while the kids are bored out of their minds. Take them to a park with a picnic for goodness sake and gossip there.

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  28. Basant Avatar

    Inmates don’t get cell phones…so who ever doing give them phone +net and see if they want to go outside …but me being from a small state of India agree that kiss want to stick to computers and cell phone at home

  29. Margaret thompson Avatar

    The world is becoming a dangerous place for children to play outdoors…the child preditors are let out of jail too easily and are preying on our children…it’s a shame because playing outdoors is one of the greatest freedoms that our children could have

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  31. Stephen Patterson Avatar

    Not mine. They spend a lot of time in nature-based camps and have since they were very young.

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  33. Suzanne Avatar

    The best way for kids to learn is to play – both indoors and outdoors.

  34. Lisa D Avatar
    Lisa D

    Your info on how much outdoor time inmates in the US get is so very wrong that I wont even bother to read the rest of the article. Ever heard of verifying facts?

  35. Debrah Roemisch Avatar
    Debrah Roemisch

    One huge problem is that there are not outdoor places to play anymore. When I was young we climbed trees, made hideouts in shrubs, lay in the yard and looked for 4 leaf clovers, picked Queen annes lace and dandelion flowers, played in the creek–now all that is gone–replaced by a monoculture lawn with nothing but some very manicured shrubs and flowers. I grew up on a farm–recently drove around the area I lived–the woods and creek we played in were gone! All fields of GMO corn right up to a ditch (where the creek had been). And it was not the farm kids–the kids from town came out to play in those areas also.

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    Children play more computer games. So they have less time outdoors.

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