Swiss kids spend more time playing outside than using phones

Swiss playground
CC BY 2.0 Vasile Cotovanu -- Who wouldn't want to spend hours at a playground with that kind of view?

It's a breath of fresh air. At least somewhere in the world parents haven't relinquished all control to mobile devices.

Parents in Switzerland must know what they're doing. Their children, according to a recent digital media use survey, watch TV and play video games for less than half the amount of time each week that British children do. It seems that Swiss families do a better job at balancing relationships and technology, without letting the addictiveness of the latter overtake every aspect of their lives.

The survey, which is called MIKE for Medien, Interaktion, Kinder, Eltern (translated as "media, interaction, children, parents"), observed more than 1,000 children between the ages of six and thirteen, and surveyed 641 parents in all three of Switzerland's linguistic regions. It found that 90 percent of Swiss kids play outside and inside at least once a week, 84 percent practices sports, and 80 percent met with friends.

The most popular media-based activities were watching TV and listening to music, while using the Internet and mobile phone remained at the bottom of the list. Part of this is due to age. Once kids reach high school, they're far more likely to have a smartphone, which increases time spent on the Internet; but this study found that only 50 percent of children owned a mobile device of their own.

Interestingly, children whose families had migrated to Switzerland were more likely to use a phone. This may be because their immigrant parents tend to work longer hours and rely on phones to communicate with their kids, or because they talk to distant friends and family.

SwissInfo compares the study results to children in the UK:

"Swiss parents said their children watched 5.5 hours of TV a week, while in the UK it amounted to 13.5 hours a week - more than double. For video games, Swiss parents said three hours, while their British counterparts reported seven hours. The conclusion to be drawn is that children in Switzerland watch TV or play video games as many times per week as British youngsters, but Swiss-based parents pay careful attention to how much time is spent on these devices."

We parents in North America should pay attention to these numbers. The way in which we use our own digital devices -- and allocate our time among social activities, sports, and other pastimes -- has a lasting impact on our children, and they will imitate it as they grow. With media invading every aspect of our lives, it's more important than ever to draw boundaries, to ensure that we spend enough time outside, with friends, reading, or doing other activities based in real life, as opposed to screen life. In other words, we should all strive to be more Swiss.

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