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Move Childhood Back Outdoors This Summer
Date:6/4/2010

Parents can boost their kids' health, social skills in the process, experts say

FRIDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- For kids, summertime used to mean days spent at the beach or lake, afternoon bike rides and playing badminton in backyards.

These days, summer is more likely to be lived in the not-so-great indoors, with kids glued to computer screens and televisions with little "human" contact.

The indoor child phenomenon concerns health experts and environmentalists, who worry about the effects on health, development and relationships.

By the time most U.S. children enter kindergarten, they have spent more than 5,000 hours in front of a television, and that is enough time to earn a college degree, according to David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation who uses those scary statistics in the federation's "Be Out There" campaign to get children back outside.

Having kids stay indoors in the summer is the lazy way out, of course. "It's easier for parents to say 'Play video games,' 'Watch a show,'" he said. But all that indoor time isn't healthy or good for development, he added.

Among the health benefits of more outdoor time, according to data gathered by the federation:

  • Kids will get the 60 minutes a day of physical activity recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to improve physical and mental health.
  • Obesity risk will decline -- important since obesity rates have more than doubled in the past two decades.
  • Kids may enjoy better distance vision -- at least one study has found this in children who spend more time outdoors than kids who don't.
  • Children with attention-deficit symptoms have been found to show improvement when they are exposed to natural settings.

Besides the health benefits, the outdoors provides lessons in socializing and other life skills, said Dr. David Elkind, a professor emeritus of chil
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