Take a minute to reflect on what you did for fun when you were growing up. If you were born more than 25 years ago, it’s likely that technology was not a huge part of your childhood; it just wasn’t around to the same extent that it is now.
Kids today are experiencing a very different world—one where phones, laptops, tablets, game consoles, and televisions are more commonplace, and it’s no secret that the use of these devices has been increasing over the years. Most of us rely on technology every single day, whether it’s for work, entertainment, communication, or education. While cutting out screen time altogether is rather unrealistic, it is important to understand the impact that technology is having on our society.
According to a study published in the journal Environment and Behavior, on average, middle school students spend more time on electronic media than playing outside. It’s an alarming trend that tends to be most true for certain demographics, such as girls, children of color, and eighth graders. Middle school is a very critical time in a child’s life. On top of mounting academic pressures and responsibilities, they must navigate physical, emotional, and psychological change. We know that youth benefit greatly from having a connection with nature, particularly during these transformational teenage years.
So what can we do to promote positive experiences in the outdoors for youth in Central Oregon? Here are a few suggestions from our friends @Treehugger:
– Copy the school system and implement daily recesses at home. Insist on 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. Inevitably these will get stretched as the kids get into games and the pushback will cease.
– Set rules. My kids have to play outside for half an hour when they get home from school. That take precedence over homework, household chores, and reading time. Often I go out, too, to do yard work.
– Create outdoor-to-indoor ratios. Perhaps kids can bank screen time by playing outside, e.g. an hour of outdoor play for a half-hour of Netflix.
– Establish a family tradition of being active outdoors every weekend. Go biking or hiking. Go swimming or skating. Tackle something new like skiing or snowshoeing. Take turns choosing an activity to keep kids interested and invested. Don’t let a single day go by without spending some time outdoors.
– Minimize the number of extracurricular activities in your child’s life. This will free up hours for #BEtime, a.k.a. time spent in unstructured free play
– Give them chores. Middle-school-aged kids may not be so inclined to ‘play’ outside like younger siblings are, but keep them out there by giving them jobs, e.g. shoveling snow, cutting grass, raking leaves, gardening, etc.
– Get rid of the screens. Life is much easier if there are no iPads to tantalize kids. (I don’t own one for this very reason.) Simply remove them from the household and you’ll be amazed at the reduction in arguments and the increase in time spent outdoors because there’s nothing better to do!