Article headlines focused on children and the impact of technology on childhood always grab my attention. Last month it was Dixie’s #DarkforDinner campaign that caused me to write about my family’s own experience with technology’s penetration into family time. While I was preparing that post, I came across the #RediscoverNature commercial from Nature Valley.
Last year Nature Valley encouraged people to share the joys they had with nature. This year the Canada division of the company wanted to focus the advertising campaign on three generations’ answer to, “When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?” The grandparents and parents reminisced about games of baseball, gardening, and even a fishing encounter with a bear. But when the grandchildren were asked what they do for fun all the children reported that free time was spent with technology including: video games, texting, emailing, and watching videos. One child estimated her time spent on electronics at 3 to 4 hours a day, another, 5 hours straight. One young man admitted to having watched 23 episodes of a TV series in four days.
Although the amount of time spent with the technology is above the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the responses to how they feel without technology is even more shocking. The responses included, “I completely get lost,” “I would die without my tablet”, and “When I feel upset, I play video games, and then I feel normal.”
Jim Taylor, Ph.D., in the article “How Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus” acknowledges that the effects of technology on children are complicated, with both benefits and costs. He notes that children are now able to more quickly scan information, while also having greater visual-spatial competence. Unfortunately, we are also seeing children with an inability to focus or to be imaginative.
Naphtali Hoff, President of Impactful Coaching & Consulting also weighed in on this “electronic dependency” in a recent article after the family tablet was found to be unusable one day and panic ensued. He concurs that technology offers many benefits, but that research also has proved the consequences that Taylor mentions, among others, like the ability to build and foster relationships
So what should the recommendation be for parents who find themselves struggling to limit screen time and increase play time? Get outside and go camping! Really! Nature Valley would be happy to hear that answer and see your outdoor exploits on social media with another popular hashtag, #getouthere. Christine French Cully, editor in chief for Highlights for Children magazine shares why camping might be a great choice: 1. Kids spend less time in front of screens and more time “off the grid. 2. Being in nature will naturally increase the amount of physical activity kids are getting, and 3. Being outdoors gives children much needed unstructured time for play and exploration.
Sounds like a recipe for success for balanced family time while finding the opportunity to #rediscovernature.