As I write this, the sun is shining for the first time in days. There isn’t a cloud in the sky. My two teenage stepsons are in bed. They probably spent most of the night playing video games and watching you tube.
I can’t help but think but the teenage version of myself would be doing on a day like today during the school holiday. First of all, I would be up and awake putting my “playing out” clothes on as my mum always called them. I would likely ring my friends house and I would run to get my bike out of the shed. I would bike down to my friends house quicker than my legs could power me, navigating a very scary Jack Russell in the process. We would play either at hers or mine for hours on end. We listened to the spice girls and played in the ford with other kids. We were young, free and happy with no worries at all.
I am definitely guilty of using the phrase, “back in my day” possibly a bit too much lately but I’m frustrated.
Today’s kids are spending their days lying in bed, or on the sofa wishing they had money. They are constantly scrolling through social media for “likes” and they play games where they can explore new worlds or become someone else for the day.
If they open the curtains and get out of bed, they will find the world is out there.
According to a poll carried out by The Nature conservancy, “most children watch tv, use a computer, and/or play video games every day but only 10% of kids spend time outdoors on a daily basis”.
There are many reasons why we should be encouraging our kids and teens to play outside.
First of all, their health. I’ve found that when the boys stay indoors all day they are not only just lying down and being inactive but they also tend to eat foods that reflect this. They will eat pizza, crisps, chocolate and drink fizzy drinks. They also wake late and go to bed late as they insist they aren’t tired. I’m not surprised, video games and spending time attached to a phone screen stimulates the brain and then add on top all the caffeine in various fizzy drinks and there is no way that they are relaxed and ready for bed. All of this before I even mention that they aren’t exercising. I was the epitome of health as a child. I never worried about my weight. I rode my bike daily, I played tennis on the drive, I danced to pop music and I participated in sports after school because it was promoted by both of my schools. I always slept well and my parents made sure I had plenty of fruit and vegetables in my diet.
Social skills are taking a massive hit when we don’t encourage our children to meet friends away from the smartphone. Remember when you were on holiday and you didn’t know a soul and your parents would tell you to “go and play?” I remember tentatively approaching the pool steps and hoping that the kids in the pool would engage with me and make the first move. By the end of that day, I knew everything about them, exchanged addresses and promised to meet up once we all got back home. I have always been the same. I never struggle talking to new people. Can we all say the same for our children now? Making friends is much easier on a smartphone. You can leave a friend request hanging forever if you wish to. Chances are you may never even see the person you are now friends with on Facebook. Sadly, technology is no substitute for having a real friend. So many of our social skills rely on eye contact and body language. Imagine teaching your toddler rules without using your voice or your body language. They would never learn. Picking up on people’s emotions is how we mature and develop our relationships. Have you ever received a text message and wondered why that person is so annoyed with you only to find out that they aren’t? All because you can’t pick up a tone of voice in a text message. When our kids go out into the real world, their lack of social skills will hinder them in the workplace and in their relationships. Technology is the enemy, not our friend when it comes to our children in this instance.
Addiction to electronics, in my opinion is the root of breakdown in communication in every single relationship we have. I’m just as guilty, sometimes I find myself and my other half sat in silence attached to our phones. When we do this, our children pick up on it. They see this as the norm. A study carried out in the United States found that most 8 to 10 year olds are spending 8 hours with various electronic media. That statistic then goes up to 11 hours for teenagers. Scarily, that is longer than they spend daily at school in the U.K. Our family mealtimes when I was a child was time to talk. We would sit, all four of us and it was always a lovely time,of the day. It was time to touch base and have a little chat.
I am not living in a dream world I promise. Me and my daughter don’t spend hours outside exploring the garden and splashing in puddles. Some days we watch cbeebies for too long and I do housework but I hope that in the future Wren realises there is much more to life than being in these four walls.