Fact Check: American Children Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prison Inmates

Fact Check: American Children Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prison Inmates


Children Playing Photo by cottonbro studio/Inmates Outside Photo by Ron Lach

A study done in 2016 highlighted the disparity between outdoor time for American children and inmates in maximum-security prisons. It seems this is not only a problem in the U.S. According to various reports, a third of children worldwide spend less than an hour outside per day, while inmates in U.S. maximum-security prisons are guaranteed at least 2 hours of outdoor time daily.

This revelation stems from a survey conducted among 12,000 parents across 10 countries, revealing that one-third of children aged 5 to 12 spend less than 30 minutes outdoors each day, reports TreeHugger.com. This alarming statistic has prompted awareness campaigns, such as Unilever’s “Dirt is Good – Free the Children,” aimed at advocating for more outdoor playtime for kids.

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,” reported The Guardian in 2016.

In a short film documenting the responses of prisoners to this survey, inmates at an Indiana maximum-security facility described their outdoor time as the “highlight” of their day. For these incarcerated individuals, outdoor time serves as a vital escape from the confines of their environment.

Dr. Boyce Watkins, a finance Ph.D., best-selling author, speaker, and founder of The Black Business School, tweeted, “Just read that The average kid spends less time outdoors than prison inmates. That can’t be good.”

The contrast between children’s limited outdoor exposure and inmates’ guaranteed outdoor access has sparked concern about the physical and mental well-being of today’s youth. Studies show that time spent outdoors is crucial for physical activity, Vitamin D absorption, and overall mental health, offering benefits that range from reduced obesity rates to improved focus for children with ADHD.

Children Playing Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/children-playing-on-swing-4430308/Inmates Outside Photo by Ron Lach : https://www.pexels.com/photo/men-standing-in-jail-yard-10476450/