Editorial: You can take your screens for a walk outside

Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied

Put down that phone. Look out the window next to you. How long can you keep your attention on that natural scene before your gaze is drawn back to your screen? 

Mobile phone use has become entrenched in societies across the world. In a US study from 2014, it was found female college students spent an average of 10 hours on a mobile phone every day compared to almost eight for males. 

While in Australia we may say we are different it is certainly uncommon for us to leave home without our devices; provider of market and consumer data Statista states there are 19.7million mobile phones in Australia this year, compared to a nation-wide population of 25million.  

Smartphones are still a relatively new invention, one which we are still getting used to. While the first smartphone, IBM’s Simon Cellular Phone, was released in 1993 and introduced touch screens to phones, it could be argued this new breed of phone was only pushed into the mainstream when Apple’s first iPhone came out in 2007. 

The question that arises from considering all the screen time we are doing is what kind of effect is it having when it reduces our contact with the natural environment?

According to research from Planet Ark and Toyota Australia, Australians are spending four per cent of their week in nature yet almost three hours a day on their mobile devices, despite 89 per cent agreeing time spent outdoors significantly helped reduce stress and increase levels of calmness.

The research also found one in three believed spending time in nature made them feel more relaxed with a positive impact on their mental and spiritual health, while 90 per cent thought spending time in nature had many benefits for the wellbeing and development of children.

The organisations’s research suggested "screen time" and "green time" do not need to be mutually exclusive and can work together to positively impact the preservation of our environment as well as our wellbeing, recommending free apps such as field guide for birdwatchers the Australian Birds Guide, hiking guide All Trails and QuestaGame, a game that takes players outdoors to discover, map and help protect life on our planet. 

Another, perhaps more mainstream, idea is Pokemon GO, the augmented reality mobile phone game that took the world by storm a couple of years ago and sent teenagers outside in droves in order to capture those elusive Pokemon.