VANCOUVER - A new survey conducted on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation shows that 70 per cent of youth spend about an hour or less outside each day. The Foundation released the key findings of the survey on their website today. Over 660 Canadian youth from across the country took the on-line survey this past spring.
Nearly half of the youth surveyed between the ages of thirteen and twenty feel they don't have enough time to join programs that get them out into nature. They say school, work, and other chores make it difficult for them to take part in outdoor programs. The findings highlight the need for parents and teachers to encourage young people to spend more time outside.
"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. "If parents and the school system are putting a greater emphasis on indoor tasks and activities, this will translate into how young people spend their time and where."
There is now a huge gap between the amount of screen time young people are getting with the amount of time spent outside. For instance, 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.
The Foundation's recent survey also highlights the important role parents and families play in getting younger teens to spend time outside. The younger they were, the more likely they were to spend time with their families in nature.
"Getting outside as a family can help create a nature habit," says Leanne 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."
To encourage families to spend more time outside the David Suzuki Foundation has created Back to school? Get back outside! The four week challenge asks families to do four outdoor activities that have them explore their neighborhoods and their connections to nature.
The Foundation hopes to get 5 000 families outside this fall. For more information about, Back to school? Get back outside!, visit: www.getbackoutside.ca
For more information, contact:
Leanne Clare, Project Lead, Connecting Youth with Nature project
Key findings from the David Suzuki Foundation's 2012 Youth Survey on Nature and the Outdoors
In the spring of 2012, the David Suzuki Foundation asked Canadian youth between the ages of 13 and 20 to tell us about their experiences outdoors.
During a six-week period, 664 young Canadians from every province and territory in Canada (except Nunavut) shared their views on:
- Why they get involved in environmental programming, and why they don't.
- The types of outdoor programming that might interest them.
- The types of programming they think are most effective in fostering a longer-term connection with the outdoors.
- The types of environmental issues they are interested in.
The profile of a typical respondent to the survey was a female between the ages of 18 and 20 years of age who lives in a city or suburb and who does not identify as a minority. She spends about an hour a day outside and has participated in some kind of outdoor programming, likely before she was 16 years-old.
Nearly half of Canadian youth surveyed feel they don't have enough time to join programs that get them out into nature. They say school, work, and other chores make it difficult for them to take part in outdoor programs. This speaks to the fact that society may not prioritize spending time outdoors. If parents and the school system are putting a greater emphasis on indoor tasks and activities, this will translate into how young people spend their time and where.
Seventy per cent of the youth surveyed spend only about an hour or less per day outdoors. When they are 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 in our urban environments. Schools also play a pivotal role in getting kids outside, with over two thirds having accessed outdoor or nature programming through their school or a field trip.
The survey also shows the importance of getting kids to spend time outdoors at a young age. Young people currently or previously involved in some form of outdoor programming were 20 per cent more likely to spend unstructured time outside. They were also more likely to spend time exploring nature.
The survey also points to the important role parents and families play in getting younger teens to spend time outside. The younger they were, the more likely they were to spend time with their families in nature and to spend time outside in structured outdoor programs.
Youth aged 16 and over were more likely to spend time outdoors on their own, perhaps because parents relax restrictions on their children's movement as they get older. Only 35 per cent of youth aged 13-15 said they usually spent time outdoors by themselves, compared with over 60 per cent of older youth.
Most encouragingly, over half (58 per cent) of youth reported that they usually do at least some type of unstructured outdoor activity that gives them the freedom to observe and inquire about their surroundings e.g., observing wildlife, hiking, arts-based activities, catching bugs, etc. This indicates that this kind of activity has great appeal to young people, and that families and communities need to encourage young people to spend more time exploring their natural curiosity about the world around them.
The survey and research findings were conducted by Cathexis Consulting on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation and have been summarized by the Foundation. For a more detailed summary of the findings please go to: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/publications/reports/2012/youth-engagement-with-nature/