The truth is, my four year old niece is more digitally savvy than I'll ever be. While her tech skills are impressive, I can't help but question what all this exposure to our fast-paced, digital culture does to a child's relationship to nature.
Long before the days of iPhones, computers or Netflix, my sisters and I would spend our summer days climbing trees, riding bikes and altogether causing havoc in the neighborhood. We had scabby knees, were covered in dirt and mosquito bites and you had to drag us inside when the sun finally went down.
Even writing this makes me feel old. I can even hear my grandfather's voice in the back of my head saying, "when I was kid I had to walk 10 miles in the snow just to get to school." Times change, I get it. But there is a undeniable joy that comes from playing in nature as a kid and I'm not the only one who thinks so.
In the latest episode of Slate's parenting podcast, Mom and Dad Are Fighting, they discuss the topic of how to get your kids outside.
Editor Dan Kois, recalls his latest family trip to Iceland, a natural paradise where even his kids were impressed, only to return to a world stuck inside and glued to screens. Luckily guest Scott Sampson, the host of Dinosaur Train, comes to the rescue, helping to address the question, "What are our kids losing right now due to how little nature is part of their lives?"
The facts are astonishing. Scott says the average kid, "plays outside for only four - seven minutes each day - 90 percent less than their parents did," and continues, that the "same average kids looks at screens seven to ten hours per day."
When things like obesity, depression, ADD and heart disease are all skyrocketing in kids it's certainly hard to ignore that something needs to change in our digital loving society. Scott points out that while "getting outside isn't a cure all , its'a step in the right direction."
So what should parents do? Scott suggests to start, get your kids to better understand the greater interconnectedness we share with the outside world and that it starts with talking about it, as a family, at dinner and reminding them there is a world outside themselves. Put simply, make nature an adventure.
Not having kids myself, I can only assume the hardships parents face these days, in so many capacities. While I certainly don't envy having to pry those iPads out of the hands of crying kids, I'm convinced that time outside is critical. Go play.