STATS: Nature Time vs Screen Time

The numbers speak for themselves: kids spend less than 7 minutes per day outside while they spend more than 7 hours on media.

Our kids are becoming increasingly sedentary and spend the majority of their days indoors. And the fact that these statistics are older makes this even more of a concern. I’ll update this post with more current stats as I find them.

Considering all the health benefits that nature has to offer, and the lack of health benefits offered by media usage, it’s essential that we work on changing out family’s culture and change how our kids spend the majority of their time!

Check out the stats below to see how screen time for kids has changed over the decades.


WEEKLY Average Time of American Children, ages 6-17 (hours:minutes)

Activity 1981 2002 2004*
Outdoor Activities 1:40 0:50
Sports 4:04 2:59 9:55 (1:25/day)
Hobbies 0:27 0:12 7:00 (1:00/day) hobbies & clubs
Reading 1:09 1:17 5:01 (0:43/day)
Being Read To 0:03 0:05
Socializing 2:12 4:47 15:52 (2:16/day) probably while using social media
Playing 7:20 8:05
Television 15:44 14:36 29: 45 (4:15/day)
Computer 0:00 2:45 7:28 (1:04/day)
Electronic Games 5:43 (0:49/day)
Listening to Music 12:07 (1:44/day)
Studying 2:38 3:58 5:50 (0:50/day)
School 26:21 32:27
Sleep/Naps 62:38 68:12
Eating 8:28 7:06
Personal Care 5:56 8:13

Note: 1981 & 2002 data come from: Changing Times of American Youth: 1981-2003 for ages 6-17 years old. The 2004 data comes from *Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 year-olds (2010). Averages were for 8-18 year-olds.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV under the age of 2 and only 1-2 hours of TV per day for children over 2 years.


Positive Trends:

  • Kids read more in homes where parents have rules concerning screen times. (Ref#1)
  • Homes that have rules limiting screen time watch almost 2 hours less every day than families without rules. (Ref#1)
  • 90% of 5-9 year-olds read daily (Ref#3)


Negative Trends:

  • Fewer than half of American children have screen time rules. (Ref#1)
  • More than half American children report that the TV is on most of the day, even when no know is watching. On average, these children experience more than 2 additional hours of screen time than children in families who do not have the TV on all day. (Ref#1)
  • 63% of American families keep the TV on during meals. These kids spent 1:30 more hours of screen time than kids who did not watch TV during meals. (Ref#1)
  • American children use more than one device at least a quarter of their total screen time, for example, listening to music while playing video games. (Ref#1)
  • Kids with their own personal devices, especially in their own rooms, have 2 additional hours of screen time per day. Ref#1
  • Kids read significantly less when they have media devices in their bedrooms. Ref#1
  • 2-5 year-olds watch approximately 3:30 of TV per day. Ref#3
  • Lower income, Hispanic, and African American children far more media than their middle class or white counterparts. (Ref#3)
  • Kids who report being relatively unhappy spent 1:30 more on media than those who reported being happy.
  • Children shift their digital media habits around the age of 8, from watching TV to other media (Ref#3)
  • Half of American kids (8 years and younger) watch TV the hour before bedtime.
  • Lower income children that are less than 8 years ols (<30K) spend twice as much time watching television (3:30 hrs) than higher income children (>75K, 1:50 hrs). (Ref#4)

Other Trends:

  • Half of American kids (8 years and older) have their own tablet or phone. (Ref#4)



Science says that setting rules can decrease kids’ media time by more than 2 hours per day!

  • Don’t allow devices in children’s bedrooms. On average, kids consume 2 hours less of digital media if they don’t have complete control over their devices. (Ref#1)
  • Even if kids have their own devices, they should ask permission to use them. This goes along with the idea that kids should not have devices in their room, and therefore, they will not have access to them anytime they please. This type of rule decreases media consumption by 2 hours per day. (Ref#1)
  • No media during meals. This type of rule decreases media consumption by 2 hours per day. (Ref#1)
  • Don’t leave the TV running when no one is watching. Again, this will lead to 2 fewer hours of media consumption per day. (Ref#1)

Other things you may want to consider:

  • Encourage media use that promotes creativity and community. Have your kids go outside and take pictures or videos of things they saw. Have them create a little
  • Teach mobile etiquette. For example, kids can’t be on their devices when they are at a dinner party, they need to look up and address people when they are spoken to, etc.
  • Incorporate technology in outdoor activities. Technology is an essential part of our world and our kids need to know how to use it responsibly. You can do that by allowing them to use apps when they’re outdoors (for a limited amount of time, of course.) In fact, you can use the app to lure them into nature. Eventually, they’ll leave it behind and explore the natural world. Apps like iNaturalist, or anything that has to do with GPS and navigation are always a hit!



Ref#1: Rideout, V., et al. (2010). Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 year-olds. The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation.

Ref#2: Juster, F.T. et al. (2004). Changing Times of American Youth: 1981-2003. Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.

Ref#3: Gutnick, A.L., Robb, M., Takeuchi, L., Kotler, J. (2010). Always Connected: The New Digital Media Habits of Young Children. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

Ref#4: The Common Sense Consensus: Media use by kids age 0 to 8. Common Sense Media. 

Ref#5: Hofferth,S, & Sandberg, J. (1999). Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997. University of Michigan Institute for Research.


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