Outdoor Approaches for Smartphone Addiction

Outdoor Approaches for Smartphone Addiction

Danielle McKain (Beaver Area School District, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8449-0.ch014
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Research has shown the value of exposure to nature and specifically children playing outdoors. With the growth of technology and mobile devices, children and adults are often less active outdoors. As digital addiction continues to rise, a common response is promoting the value of the outdoors and going device free. This chapter provides research and recommendations on smartphone addiction and treatment options, as well as, the benefits of the outdoors. The chapter specifically focuses on a variety of approaches, movements, and campaigns for treating smartphone addiction through outdoor activity. Results of these options and limitations of current research will also be presented.
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Mobile devices provide convenience and peace of mind, at the same time, digital addiction is a growing concern across the world. The many variations of digital addiction may include smartphone addiction, cell phone addiction, mobile addiction, social media addiction, gaming addiction, internet addiction, screen addiction, and technology addiction. Due to the many variations, for the purpose of this chapter, these terms will be generalized as digital addiction. A digital addict is a person who compulsively uses digital technology. These addictions impact families, education, employment, and overall health. As personal connections are lost, families and individuals seek help. Research on digital addiction is emerging and there are a variety of treatment options. There are counseling centers, apps, and various initiatives that are becoming more common. This chapter focuses on digital addiction that interferes with day to day activities. Although there are a growing number of treatments, this chapter will concentrate on various initiatives, movements, and campaigns that organizations are implementing to promote enjoying the outdoors and going device free.

The objectives of this chapter include:

  • 1.

    Background and Recommendations for Smartphone Addiction: Providing a background on smartphone addiction, research, and treatment recommendations.

  • 2.

    Research and Recommendations on the Benefits of the Outdoors: Providing recommendations and research on the benefits of the outdoors.

  • 3.

    Resources for Outdoor Approaches for Smartphone Addiction: Providing an overview of various resources and initiatives for going mobile free and getting outdoors.

  • 4.

    Limitations of Current Research: Providing limitations of current research.



While access to social media, the internet, games, directions, and constantly updated apps can offer many advantages, digital addiction is a growing concern. A quick internet search includes a variety of options to combat digital addiction. Electronic-free, no technology, unplug, offline, device-free, screen-off, limit screen time, phone free zone, and power off are various terms and phrases used to get away from the mobile devices that are a major part of so many lives. In the past, parents were concerned about children spending too much time watching television, but today many parents are struggling with children that are addicted to mobile devices. A common suggestion for dealing with digital addiction is to get children outside to play.

There are various recommendations for the amount of screen time children should have; likewise, there are recommendations for the amount of time children should spend outdoors or be active The Healthy Kids Community Challenge in Canada stresses that screen time can be especially harmful to children; screen time can interfere with early development, physical health, and psychosocial health (Healthy Kids Community Challenge, 2018). They recommend children under the age of 2 should not have any screen time, children ages 2-4 should have less than one hour per day, and children ages 5-17 should have no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day. The Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Youth also recommends two hours or less per day for kids and no screen time for children under two years of age and The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth recommends a minimum of 60 minutes per day of physical activity (Make Room for Play, 2018). The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood provides research on children and screen time, citing that the American Academy of Pediatrics and The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity recommend less than two hours of screen time per day for children over two and no screen time for children under two (Children and Screen Time, n.d.). The Mayo Clinic provides guidelines for screen time (Unplug: Tips to manage kids' screen time, 2016). The guidelines recommend one hour per day of high-quality programming for children ages 2-5 and stress that unstructured playtime provides more value for brain development than electronic media. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least one hour of physical activity per day for children and limited time on electronic media (Children and Nature, 2018). These recommendations consistently show that there is concern over how much screen time children have and how screen time could interfere with outdoor time.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS): Dunckley’s term for an unrecognized disorder from too much screen time.

Ecotherapy: Growth and healing through interaction with earth.

Biophilia: The instinctive human attraction to nature.

Friluftsliv: The Scandinavian Philosophy of spending time outdoors for physical and mental wellbeing.

Forest Therapy: The use of nature and forests for wellness and healing.

Digital Addiction: Compulsive use of digital technology (other common terms include: smartphone addiction, cell phone addiction, mobile addiction, social media addiction, gaming addiction, internet addiction, screen addiction, and technology addiction).

iGen: Those born in the mid-1990s and later.

Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese term for forest bathing; the intentional time spent around trees.

Nature-Deficit Disorder: Louv's (2016) term for the lack of time children spend outside.

Green Schoolyard: Multi-functional school grounds that offer a place for playing, learning, exploring, and growing.

Glow Kids: Kardara’s term for kids who frequently look at screens.

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