Kids these days don’t spend nearly enough time outdoors, say experts, but a new federal bill from two Democratic lawmakers aims to help reverse that trend.
The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, authored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), will provide incentive for states to help kids spend more time outside. The bill, which was introduced on April 23, intends to connect kids with nature and foster new learning opportunities.
The bill’s sponsors say they hope that kids spending time outside will be more likely to care for themselves and their natural surrounding in adulthood, and pass those traits on to ensure the future of parks and other outdoor areas.
“The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would enrich the lives of our children, improve public health, and benefit our outdoor recreation economy,” said Senator Heinrich in a press release. “By taking a holistic approach to improving child well-being, this bill would provide our kids the opportunity to gain hands-on outdoor education, while giving them an introduction and lifelong connection to conservation and all that the natural world has to offer.”
Looking at the latest numbers, it’s clear that kid’s increasing alienation from the outdoors is more than just an old-timer’s gripe. Recent research has found children spend an average of six and a half hours per day staring at their screens, adversely affecting their weight, academic performance, and even their emotional intelligence. Pediatricians have even been encouraged to recommend kids go outside to improve their general health.
A Nature Conservancy poll also found that only 10 percent of kids say they spend time outdoors every day. While today’s parents may have spent sufficient time outside when they were youngers, scientists say they’re not helping their children carry on the tradition.
The bill isn’t the first federal attempt at getting the youngest generation into the great outdoors. In February, the Obama Administration began the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative, which granted 4th grade students and their families free admission to all national parks and other federal lands and water for a full year.
If it’s any consolation to those electronics-addicted kids, they won’t have to completely unplug to experience nature right now. With a plentiful selection of smartphone apps that encourage time outdoors, their digital companion could be a good first step to eventually diverting their eyes from their screens to the world around them.