Technology is a great thing! It’s afforded us so much, especially when thinking of connecting with one another. From the first telephone that allowed us to call people far away, to social media that allows us to connect with others around the world within seconds, you would think we’re the most “connected” bunch ever. So why does there seem to be such a disconnect these days, especially within the family? Like all good things, technology is great in moderation. But studies overwhelmingly show that kids need more nature and less technology for better overall physical, mental, and social health! Let's look at the reasons why!
Benefits of Nature
First let's talk about the basic benefits of getting out into nature. This goes far beyond just fresh air. Getting out and connecting with nature can have profound benefits on the physical and mental health of all people, especially kids!
Physical Benefits of Nature
The heart is one of the biggest things affected by spending time outdoors. Just like any muscle, it needs to be exercised to stay strong and healthy. A simple hike can get your heart rate up enough to really work it out! This can lead to lower blood pressure and increased oxygen to your body. Lower blood pressure basically means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump the blood to your body. This reduces the strain on your heart as well.
Spending time outdoors also will help to reduce the risk of obesity, diseases, and some cancers. The physical exercise helps to increase your metabolism, boost your immune system, and improve tons of bodily functions. This includes better digestive health, reduced inflammation, and better stress management. Spending time outdoors helps you sleep better, resulting in more energy the following day, improved concentration, and much more.
Mental and Emotional Benefits of Nature
Aside from the host of physical benefits your kids will experience by spending more time outdoors, there are emotional and mental benefits as well! While there are direct benefits of exercise itself on mental and emotional health, just being in nature has benefits as well.
Studies have shown that being outside results in improved memory, increased mental energy, better concentration, and higher levels of creativity! These studies also conclude that just being in a green environment (leaves and foliage, not just green the color) helps to reduce anxiety, depression, and overall bad mood. Effects of mental illness can be greatly reduced by just getting out and looking at trees!
The Ill Effects of Technology on Kids
They may be watching educational shows or playing games that help them learn, but too much technology, mostly called “screen time” these days, can have negative affects on your child. Let’s take a look at how this happens!
Recent studies show that watching a screen can have the same affect on the brain as taking heroin or cocaine! While it obviously isn’t releasing toxic poison in their blood stream, it is lighting up the frontal cortex of the brain, the same way that these drugs do! Technology arouses the brain and in turn causes the release of added dopamine. This then gives that euphoric feeling that drug addicts get when they use.
Parents are seeing some of the same “signs” in kids with a screen addition as some will see in someone who is using drugs. They become uninterested in things that once made them happy, their entire world revolves around getting their “fix”, and when they can’t have it, their world implodes. What happens when you take the drugs from an addict? They experience withdrawal, become agitated, angry, and even at times physically ill or violent. The same goes when you remove the technology from the kids that have become dependent on feeling this euphoria delivered by the device. They can become depressed, anxious, and at times exhibit what these studies call “psychotic-like features” and completely lose touch with reality.
The best way to keep this from happening is to set limits and ensure they’re getting plenty of time outdoors. Even Steve Jobs, creator of tons of the technological devices our kids are hooked on today, limited screen time for his own children. That should tell you something!
When kids spend all day on the couch staring at a screen, they’re obviously not up and moving around. This lack of physical activity contributes to part of the childhood obesity problem. A proper diet isn’t enough to keep your little one healthy. As stated above, your body needs exercise to keep it running properly. Unfortunately, the jump scares in Five Nights at Freddy’s isn’t enough to be considered a cardio workout. Most associations agree that kids need a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour of outdoor physical activity per day and the American Academy of Pediatrics says no more than 1-2 hours of screen time a day in order to keep kids physically healthy.
Much of the technology we have today, even educational games, seem to inhibit creative thinking and hands-on learning. Kids aren’t thinking outside the box because they have a device that tells them what to do, how to do it, and in some cases, does it for them! Not only this, but they have a world of information at their fingertips. As you may know, anyone can have a website. Anyone can claim to be educated, or to have facts. But not all who do actually have what they claim. The kids are then subjected to inaccurate information that can really hinder their ability to learn and even, at times, think for themselves. They may also come in contact with information that you as a parent aren’t yet ready for them to have, such as answers to their Googled questions like “where do babies come from?”
Just as anyone can claim to be educated or have facts, anyone can claim to be whomever they want. Games like Minecraft allow players to talk to other players. There have been a number of instances of child predators using seemingly harmless avenues such as this game to lure kids into dangerous situations.
While we’re not trying to say that all technology is bad, you can clearly see that the benefits of being out in nature outweigh the time spent using technology. Ensuring that kids are getting their nature fix will help to set them up for great physical and emotional wellness down the road. Getting them out camping and away from technology allows them to grow as people, and for you to use that time to grow closer as a family. Which sounds better?