By David Janeson
If you worry that your kids are overly focused on a cell phone or tablet, you’re not alone. Screen dependency is a real disorder with real consequences.
If unplugging your kids is a priority, there’s no better remedy than getting back in touch with nature. In fact, outdoor fun time and activities counteract much of the damage done by mobile device dependency.
The Consequences of Too Much Screen Time
Most experts agree — excessive use of screens cause communication and sleep difficulties, thwart socialization and some studies indicate negative effects on brain development as well.
“Think about your own device usage. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going on in the online world and lose awareness of what’s going on around you, isn’t it?” — David Janeson
Think about how much worse it is for your child.
Why Get Back to Nature?
Kids spend on average seven hours a day on a screen and only four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play. The shift is due to several factors, including accessibility, urban life and largely unfounded fears about disease and a lack of safety.
But, experiencing nature is just plain good for kids.
Recent studies indicate that unstructured outdoor play times give children a chance to build confidence. Outdoor play also gives kids the freedom to think creatively, use their imaginations and engage in physical activity.
What Parents Can Do
It doesn’t matter where you live; you can create opportunities for your children to learn about and experience the natural world around them. If you instill a love for nature when your children are very young, you may find them less likely to become addicted to mobile devices as they grow.
Try one or more of these ways to interest your children in nature and the world around them no matter where you live:
- Watch nature from your window: All you need is a bit of green space out the window and a notebook to log nature’s events, and you’ve got a fun activity the whole family can enjoy. Purchase a stargazing guide and bird identification book and let the children identify what they see and record the observations. Kids can learn about cloud formations and weather patterns and record sunset and sunrise times by observing what’s happening outside their door. This type of activity nurtures a child’s natural affinity with nature and builds a foundation for a life-long love of the outdoors.
- Take a day trip: If green space is difficult to find in your immediate area, look at taking a day trip to one of the beautiful natural settings nearby. For example, Gull Harbour is only two hours from Winnipeg. Look for a close at hand area where you can spend the day hiking the trails, observing the landscape and picnicking with the family.
- Take up an outdoor family activity: Enjoying nature as a family is a great way to instill and nurture a love of the natural world and strengthen the family bond. Biking, hiking or even taking walks together gets everyone outdoors.
David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba