Survey Reveals Today's Kids Spend Much Less Time Outdoors Than Their Parents Did - and Societal Pressure Regarding Children's Activities Isn't Helping

Nature Valley research finds benefits of time spent in nature are actually well understood by parents, and making simple changes can reap huge payoff

TORONTO, June 20, 2017 /CNW/ - Today's kids are spending less time outdoors than their parents did, and new research reveals how modern societal pressures and parents might be contributing to that trend.

According to a Nature Valley survey conducted with MARU/Vision Critical*, today's kids are spending three times more time indoors on digital devices than they do outside in nature. They will be the first to admit it, with 35 per cent saying they do not spend time outdoors because they would rather be on digital devices for gaming and social media. They are missing out on the numerous and significant benefits that come from spending time in nature.

Overall, Canadians have a strong understanding of the benefits of nature. Over half (55 per cent) believe nature is relaxing; 46 per cent claim it clears their mind; 32 per cent of parents see the cardiovascular benefits for their kids; and 26 per cent believe it encourages independence. But despite this, several factors and barriers dissuade Canadians from prioritizing time outdoors in nature.

Nature Valley's research revealed several reasons Canadians shy away from spending time outdoors, including:

  • Societal Pressures - Parents feel tremendous societal pressure to enroll their kids in organized, structured activities, instead of letting them play freely in nature. As a result, scheduled activities tend to fill up kids' free time – in addition to dinner time, homework time and bed time.

  • Not enough time / too tired - A feeling that getting out in nature requires packing up the car and driving somewhere far away. Canadians also deprioritize exploring nature because they are "too tired" (27 per cent).

  • Canadian weather - 52 per cent were dissuaded by Canadian weather being too hot or too cold and concurrently, because they do not like bugs (24 per cent).

  • Technology/screens - 35 per cent of Canadians under 18 said they prefer to spend their time with technology, such as social media and gaming.

"As kids now spend more time with entertainment media, they're getting less and less time outdoors, despite the benefits," says Ben Klasky, President and CEO of IslandWood, an innovative nonprofit organization that introduces thousands of children to the outdoors each year. "Spending time in nature is more than just fun and games. Independent studies have shown it increases a person's ability to concentrate and problem solve as well as reduces anxiety and stress. Spending time playing in a natural environment also breeds creativity and problem-solving skills in children."

Nature Valley's research also revealed that Canadian parents feel if they do not have their children enrolled in organized activities, then they are somehow not being good parents. But the fact is, unstructured activity in a natural environment brings tremendous benefits to children and adults alike, and it can be achieved just by making some simple lifestyle changes.

"At Nature Valley, we believe there is amazing joy in nature and that nothing else can calm, energize and uplift us the way nature does," said Samuel Bussieres, Associate Director, Marketing for General Mills Canada. "That's why Nature Valley developed 100 #NatureMoments for 100 Days of Summer."

"On the one hand, large numbers of parents understand the benefits that spending time in nature provides for their children as well as for themselves, but on the other hand, parents report feeling tremendous peer pressure to have their kids involved in specific, structured activities, rather than being free to explore and make their own fun outdoors," said Bussieres. "We created 100 Nature Moments for 100 Days of Summer as a way to inspire and encourage Canadians to get outside and connect with nature more often, and to remind them just how easy it is to do so."

Contrary to the belief that nature is far away, 83 per cent of Canadians have a park close to their homes, with one in five living less than 250 meters from a park, but fewer than half of Canadians (40 per cent) say they get outside every day. More than half of Canadians (53 per cent) expressed a desire to get outside more often.

"We all lead such busy lives that it's easy to forget or take for granted that nature is right outside our doors," said Klasky. "Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves how uplifting and invigorating spending time in nature can be -- simple things like watching the sun set on a long summer day or packing a picnic basket and enjoying a meal outdoors with your family are just a few examples of how easy it is to enjoy nature." 

To download the Nature Valley 100 #NatureMoments for 100 days of summer, visit naturevalley.ca.

* The survey was conducted by Vision Critical, a quantitative research engine within the Maru/Matchbox Research Company.  Sample included 500 adults, demographically balanced by age, gender & region from across Canada.  Additionally, 200 children were also surveyed from across Canada.  The survey was conducted between April 28 and May 8, 2017. 

ABOUT GENERAL MILLS CANADA CORPORATION
Established in 1954, General Mills Canada Corporation is based in Mississauga, Ontario.  The company is dedicated to serving the world by making food people love.  Its most popular products include Cheerios* and Honey Nut Cheerios* cereals, Nature Valley* snacks, Yoplait® and Liberte* dairy products, and Old El Paso* Mexican products.   

General Mills is a proud and long-time supporter of the Canadian Olympic team, Hockey Canada, Concerned Children's Advertisers and United Way.

*Trademarks of General Mills or its affiliates
® Trademarks of YOPLAIT MARQUES S.N.C. (France) used under license. 

ABOUT BEN KLASKY:
Ben Klasky is the President and CEO of IslandWood, an innovative nonprofit organization that introduces thousands of children to the outdoors each year. Last year, he and his team launched an outdoor leadership program with the Obama White House, that took them from the urban Los Angeles neighbourhood of Compton to a 100-person native village in Northern Alaska. Ben is committed to serving at-risk youth, having led nature outings for children from Harlem and Chinatown in New York, and having taught in a low-income Louisiana school district through Teach For America.  Ben teaches a graduate course on Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs. He earned an MBA and a Master's in Education from Stanford University, and he is the co-founder of Camp Galileo – the largest set of day camps in California. To view Ben's TedX Talk in which he discusses the need to get children outdoors for their physical and mental health, click here.

SOURCE Nature Valley

For further information: or to schedule an interview, contact: Katie MacKay, Veritas Communications, kmackay@veritasinc.com / 416-955-4571; Mike Siemienas, General Mills, Media.line@genmills.com / 763-764-6364


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