Sadly, the answer is probably not. The incredible technological advances of the past two decades (which continue to develop at an astounding rate) seem to have created a generation of children who are not only uninterested in, but actually incapable of, free outdoor play. According to an article by David Elkind in 2003, “…in the past two decades alone…children have lost twelve hours of free time per week, and eight of those lost hours were once spent in unstructured play and outdoor pastimes.” This, of course creates tremendous concerns for parents regarding both the mental and physicaly development of their children. Many studies have been conducting showing the negative impact technology has had on children physically (children nowadays are weaker, more prone to obesity, and less willing to even attempt physical activities). Less interest has been taken in the mental toll that this decrease in free outside time has had on children, but anyone who interacts with children these days will likely observe disturbing lack of imagination (in the summer program I recently worked at, not only was it a challenge to motivate childrento go outdoors, but during recess they invariable opted to play a live-action version of “Mariocart” over inventing their own game; and my younger sisters, when forced to turn off the wii for a day spent the day recreating wii games in the back yard). The problem isn’t just that kids these days aren’t active enough, but more that they simply don’t know how to entertain themselves or interact with eachother in an unstructured environment. One troubling recent development is the growing popularity of “Excergaming” or games that promote physical activity, such as Dance Dance Revolution or the Wii system, as a means of combatting childhood obesity. Such technology-based physical activities, while they may improve a child’s physical health (which is still up for debate), still fail to get kids out of the house and truly playing.
The benefits of playing outside are numerous and recent studies have shown that playing outside makes kids smarter and more aware of their own selves making them self-disciplined, cooperative and overall, happier. For everyone in the generations who remembers going outside to play, you remember the smell of the grass, the warm heat from the sun and the glorious feeling of running through the park to your favorite swing.
Unfortunately, like maddie said, the technological advancements of this day and age are keeping kids indoors for more hours each day. Is it possible to reverse this trend? Possibly. With a few good ground rules, kids will learn to love the outdoors again (once they realize what’s out there!) and ask to go outside.
A few good guidelines to get started:
1. Make sure your kids know where and when they can play. Show them areas around your home that are safe and make sure they understand that they can only play in those set areas.
2. Make sure everyone in the neighborhood is on the same page. Enlist the help of other mothers to make sure that everyone is keeping an eye out when they see the kids outside. It doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to pop your head outside and check out the scene.
3. Rally the troups. Just it takes more than one parent/guardian to make sure the scene is safe for playtime, it takes more than one kid to make playtime fun. Get all the kids in the neighborhood on board for a game of kickball or tag.
4. Limit the amount of time the kids are allowed to spend w/ their various technological toys and games. This one possibly could have gone at the top because if there’s no limit then they’ll never make it the door and just fall into old habit.
I think this question also depends on where you live. I remember learning in my sociology class that some children live in areas where they are afraid to play outside. Like rn4fldhcky mentioned, make sure to show your child where it’s safe for them to play in their community. Also creating a community watch group to make sure the children are safe when they are playing is an absolute must.
Overall though I do think that some children have a dependence on video games in general, and it’s up to the parents to help them. Enrolling them in a sports program or summer camp can help to get them out of the house and interacting with other kids in a healthy and fun way. They may have less free time, but if they are having fun in the process then I don’t see anything wrong with it.
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