I stepped onto my porch on this warm July day and at first enjoyed the peacefulness of our neighbourhood. Then I began to wonder where all the children were. My childhood summers were filled with bike riding, rolling skating and walking to the convenience store with friends. My childhood street was full of kids all summer long “until the lights went on” (and then the teens emerged).
Our current neighbourhood is so full of kids that our elementary school had to change from a K-6 school to a K-4 school. So where is everyone? A few Stephen King storylines initially came to mind. But just like “video killed the radio star“, I think social media killed the outdoor child. Okay, social media is not solely responsible, but it is playing a huge role.
- No more heading to the park to see who is there. Playdates for children are arranged in Moms and Dads’ chat groups.
- Children and tweens no longer need to ride their bike to see if friends are home. They text or use wifi on their iPods to access group chats.
- Hop the bus to see friends? Teens chat constantly with their friends via text, Tumblr, and Skype. Who needs to visit in person when you have the convenience of socializing from your own bedroom?
These are just three occasions when people would have been filling the neighbourhood instead of checking their phone inside. Three occasions that contribute to less people in the neighbourhood, enjoying the outdoors.
I am so grateful to have run a home daycare when my kids were little. We went for daily walks to the park, explored bugs on the sidewalk, tobogganed, and just enjoyed playing outside in all the Canadian seasons. My kids learned to enjoy nature through play, not just as part of their school curriculum as is the case for so many children now.
Don’t get me wrong, I like social media, but like everything in life there is a time and place for it. With the increasing trend toward online socializing, parents will have to work hard to ensure their kids have a healthy balance of screen time and access to the benefits of nature.
Speaking of balance, time to get my teens off their devices, close the computer and go for a stroll around the neighbourhood…