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A study by the University of Vermont found that spending time in nature reserves or forests can significantly decrease screen time, unlike visits to city parks or urban green spaces.

The study tracked the smartphone activity and habits of 700 participants and discovered that smartphone usage increased during visits to urban locations. However, those who visited nature reserves or forests experienced a noticeable reduction in screen time.

Young people use more time on digital devices

In a groundbreaking project involving multiple universities, researchers have discovered that young adults today devote significantly more time to their smartphones than to spending time in nature. The study, conducted in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder, Columbia University, the Technical University of Denmark, and the University of Copenhagen, is the first to highlight this trend. By closely examining participants’ phone usage, the researchers found that young adults spend more than twice as much time on their smartphones compared to the time they spend in natural environments.

According to lead study author Kelton Minor, a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute, the concept of spending time outdoors, known as “Greentime,” has been recommended to help restore our attention from daily life. However, before the study, little was understood about whether nature can help individuals disconnect from their mobile devices, which they have even in natural environments.

Visits to parks offer digital detox

Previous research had suggested that short visits to city parks might offer a digital detox, but the study found that texting and phone calls increased in such settings. In addition, the research revealed that longer visits to more remote and natural areas like forests or nature preserves helped people reduce their screen time and regain their focus away from smartphones.

Researchers have discovered that urban green spaces have the potential to strengthen remote social connections, as evidenced by the rise in communication activities such as texts and phone calls in urban parks. However, this increased connectivity might inadvertently hinder individuals from benefiting from the rejuvenating effects of nature.