Technology vs. Nature – Why Outdoor Activities are Vital For Teens

Guest post by Hilary Smith.

What new technology do you believe is the most important contribution to our modern lives?

This question is fun to ponder, because within the last few decades and century we have seen our world revolutionized by inventive minds and products. A strong majority of people might answer the question with electricity, air conditioning, automobiles, or modern medicine. Mothers might nod in agreement, but add washing machines or automatic dishwashers to the list. And, we all know what our sons and daughters would say: the Internet or their beloved devices.

A recent study revealed that the average teen spends a surprising 9 hours consuming media everyday. For parents, this realization can be disheartening. Every week our kids are spending a total of 63 hours plugged into a device, swiping screens, or watching a monitor. Most people don’t spend that amount of time at a full time job! The lure of glowing screens, games, and social media is a major factor that is keeping many of our boys and girls cooped up inside, instead of exploring nature or enjoying green spaces.

The Problem with Too Much Technology

It’s not surprising our kids love technology and media. Social media and devices have revolutionized the ways we communicate, providing new and exciting mediums that promote authentic communication. With a screen tap, we can instantly watch our favorite shows or movies while streaming music and kids can interact on a variety of platforms or gaming systems without ever leaving the house! This is the perfect recipe for technology overload and when paired with online dangers like cyberbullying, identity theft, and inappropriate content we have cause to be concerned.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend we limit the amount of screen time for kids and teens. Listed below is just a small sampling of why we should reduce a child’s technology consumption:

The Importance of Nature

We know that technology does have a time and place, but it’s important we put down our smartphones and tablets to examine the role nature should be playing in a child’s life. According to findings published by the National Wildlife Federation, today’s children spend half the amount of time outside as their youthful counterparts did 20 years ago. Granted, a lot has changed in two decades, but many people speculate the prime reason for this shift is the prevalence of new technologies, smart devices, and social media.

It’s easy for us to find excuses for why teens are seeking refuge inside. Maybe air conditioning is luring them in or the streets they live on aren’t safe? However, we do know that nature provides children with numerous emotional and health benefits that can’t be downloaded. Scroll through the following perks fresh air and green space can offer our kids:

 Outdoor exercise and play helps kids develop keener observations, perceptions, and creativity skills, which spills over to an increased readiness to learn and, in turn, produces higher test scores.

  • Nature boosts our immune systems by exposing us to microbes in the dirt, Vitamin D from sunlight, animal dander, bacteria, and germs.
  • Experiencing green spaces has been shown to relieve symptoms of ADHD.
  • Exposure to sunlight regulates our natural biorhythms, which helps children develop healthy sleep patterns.
  • Increased physical activity reduces the likelihood a child will struggle with obesity, hypertension, or heart disease as they age.

Looking Forward

Technology is here to stay and we can’t realistically completely eliminate it from our kids’ lives. However, we can challenge our family to be more intentional with our choices, strive to balance technology use, and provide opportunities for kids to embrace nature. To release our teens back into the wild, we have compiled 5 suggestions to motivate children to put down devices and go green:

 For every hour spent outdoors, reading, or completing chores, allow them to earn a set amount of technology time.

  • As a family, head outside for one hour everyday to play a game, walk, hike, garden, or just hangout.
  • Designate technology-free zones in the home and keep devices out of bedrooms and away from the family dinner table.
  • Implement a “curfew” for devices and require everyone to power down during certain hours every night.
  • Find free or low cost events at local parks or recreation areas for teens or the family to attend.

 What tips for balancing technology can you share?

 

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