Study: time outdoors improves kids’ emotional IQ

Flickr, Angela Sevin

Ever wonder what would happen if kids didn't use electronics for a few days? After all, children have reported spending seven hours a day staring at screens.

That's what researchers at the University of California's Children’s Digital Media Center recently studied. Their study, published this month in Computers in Human Behavior, reveals that kids who spend more time outdoors away from screens may be more emotionally intelligent.

Fifty sixth graders, who reported spending four hours a day with electronic media, were tested on how skilled they were at reading emotions. Then, one group spent five days at an outdoor camp with no screens. When they returned, the kids who’d been immersed in nature showed more improvement in emotional intelligence.

While many other studies have shown the cognitive benefits of spending time outdoors, this study suggests that face-to-face interaction uninterrupted by screens could be an additional benefit of time in nature.

Studies have also shown that those with high emotional intelligence not only have greater mental health, but may also have improved job skills.

“The results of this study should introduce a much-needed societal conversation about the costs and benefits of the enormous amount of time children spend with screens, both inside and outside the classroom," the study's authors wrote.

We hope the conversation also includes the costs and benefits to America's precious wild lands. We know kids who spend time outdoors are not only healthier, smarter and kinder, but they are also more likely to be conservationists. And of course the future of our protected wild lands depends on the next generation caring for them.


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