The media continues bring to our attention more evidence of the benefits of children spending time outdoors. This week the evidence comes from Australian government researchers who are suggesting that playing outdoors dramatically cuts a child’s risk of becoming short sighted. The odds are halved if a child gets three hours per day of natural light.
The research is particularly interesting in that it quells the myth that short-sightedness is caused by computer use, watching TV or reading in dim light. The vision habits of six and seven-year olds in Singapore and Australia were compared. 30% of the Singaporean children were short-sighted which was ten times more than the Australian rate. Both groups spent similar amounts of time reading, playing the computer and watching TV. But the Australian children spent an average of two hours a day outdoors – 90 minutes more than their peers in Singapore. There also appears to be a correlation world-wide between increases in myopia amongst urban children and less and less time spent outdoors.
I have to say I am left with pity in my heart for Shetlanders and those who live in the northern climates. In the darkest winter months, the street lights sometimes remain bright all day, such is the levels of sunlight up there.
Perhaps the solution is to insist on six hours per day outside in the summer. I wonder if this means adopting the Swedish model of outdoor schools where children spend most of their day learning outdoors and the odd computer in the school is a token gesture rather than being regarded as an educational necessity. Now there’s a thought for a cold dark winter’s day!