The Barnardo’s study found that less than half (48 per cent) of 13 to 15 year-olds play outside, a significant decline on previous generations. Some 77 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they played outdoors at the same age, with the figure rising to 87 per cent among 45 to 54 year-olds.
The research is part of a wider study by the charity into the “challenges and opportunities” faced by children in a world of rapidly evolving technology. It pointed out the growth of the digital world was having a profound impact on the behaviour and habits of today’s children and said more needed to be done to equip them with the “skills and knowledge” to thrive.
Marguerite Hunter Blair, chief executive of Play Scotland, the national play organisation which promotes children’s right to play, said the findings of the survey mirrored other research.
However, she cautioned against blaming the increased availability of electronic devices for the downturn in the number of children playing outdoors.
She said: “We know children are more sedentary and less active due to being indoors, but it is not as simple as a digital issue. Parents are more fearful nowadays and their children are less likely to get the freedom they enjoyed.
“We also have considerably more traffic and in the hierarchy of public space, it is the car which still comes first. We have play areas on some streets, but they are not always enforced.”
She added: “Research suggests that more active parents have more active children and I think we need to realise how important it is to set an example for children.”
The survey for Barnardo’s, conducted by YouGov, also found that barely half of young teenagers read books, in contrast with the 79 per cent of adults aged over 18 who said they did when they were younger.
Only half of 13 to 15 year-olds said they get enough sleep compared with the 66 per cent of adults who said they did when they were young teens.
Barnardo’s Scotland director, Martin Crewe, said: “Whilst it’s fantastic that new technologies are broadening horizons and providing new opportunities, it’s vital we stay ahead of the digital curve to anticipate the problems it poses to future generations.”