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Technology vs Nature: Why Outdoor Activities Are Essential for Kid's Growth

Children and technology go together like peanut butter and jelly. Unfortunately, the number of hours children spend consuming media is mind-boggling. Recent statistics show our teens are digitally connected for an average of 9 hours every day and their younger counterparts are right behind them. For educators, this data is concrete evidence that our kids are inside swiping away their childhoods with glowing screens, video games, social media, and televisions instead of playing outside or interacting face-to-face with peers.

This revelation shows us that our students are missing out on important opportunities and activities outside for learning or growing as individuals. While it comes as no surprise that today’s technology has revolutionized the way we communicate, share ideas, consume media, and interact with others, we can probably agree there are hidden downsides to all of this tech. Granted, technology does have a time and place in our lives, but we need to consider how fast-paced digital devices are distracting our boys and girls to the point where they are preventing kids from exploring the outdoors and other interests which inhibits their growth.

Why Outdoor Activities are Essential for Growth

Over the course of the last few decades, a lot has changed in the world of education and society. As educators, one area we see this reflected is how the role of recess and outdoor play time factors into our daily schedules. According to the National Wildlife Foundation, children today are spending approximately half the amount of time outside than we did as kids. Whether it’s pollution, violence, urban sprawl, or too much technology preventing our students from seeking refuge outdoors, we owe it to our kids to encourage growth and learning in and out of the classroom so all students will succeed.

Listed below are just a few reasons why outdoor activities are essential for growth:

Fresh air is healthy! Poor air quality and indoor air pollution are common in many of our homes, schools, and offices.

A reduction in exercise and increasingly sedentary lifestyles are linked to higher risks for obesity, hypertension, and more.

Exposure to green spaces can reduce stress and anxiety levels in children and adults.

Outdoor activities expose kids to dirt, germs, and bacteria which boosts immune systems.

Outdoor activities like gardening can encourage children to develop observational skills and learn science concepts firsthand.

Sunlight actually helps provide us with beneficial vitamin D which helps our energy levels and strengthens bones.

Outdoor activities and green spaces can naturally improve the symptoms of ADHD in children.

Studies have found that physical activity and longer recess times improves learning, comprehension, and test scores.

The Dangers of Too Much Technology

The quick-paced world of our devices might be entertaining, but they can turn into a nightmare when students encounter cyberbullying online predators, inappropriate content, and the negative health problems associated with technology use. Even experts and healthcare professionals are recommending we limit screen time for kids.

The following is a basic rundown of why we need to balance technology use in our classrooms and homes:

There is a direct link between overusing social media with an increase in depression, feelings of low self-esteem, and anxiety in young people.

Inappropriate ergonomics and overuse of technology can set our kids up for a lifetime of joint and neck pain.

Fast-paced stimuli of today’s digital devices physically alters how a kid’s brain becomes wired and can increase the likelihood of addiction for teens.

The glowing screens and instant notifications have the ability to disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep schedules.

Technology overuse limits one-on-one communication which may inhibit the relationship and social skills development in children.

Looking Forward…
Technology is obviously here to stay and we can't feasibly ban all devices from our classrooms, but with a little mindfulness and advocacy, we can help our students find a healthy balance between technology and nature. To help with this task, please read through the following six suggestions to balance technology in our classrooms and homes:

Aim to get everyone outside for at least one hour daily for recess or encourage kids to be active outdoors at home.

Limit cell phones, game devices, and other technology access in the classroom.

Start a traditional or container garden together to develop an appreciation for the environment and gain access to fresh produce.

Ask parents to embrace a technology curfew in the home where every night all electronics are powered down for the evening at a set time.

Reward kids and teens with technology time based on the amount of time they spend playing outside, reading, and more!

Encourage keeping electronics in common living or activity areas to prevent risky behaviors and sleep interruptions.

What are your thoughts on technology versus nature with your students?

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