In today society both parents need to work a 40 hour per week, not being able to provide enough time for their family, causing their children to spend the time indoors until one of the parents come home from work. With today’s technology, children are occupying themselves with computers, cell phones, iPods, tablets, video games and the television, having too many channels on virtual life. The working parents will also use these devices to babysit their children while they catch up on their daily chores around the house, leaving no time for outdoor play. There is a fear for the child to go outside, because of drug dealers, and sexual predators that may live in the neighbourhood. There is a tendency for the kids to stay indoor, in hopes that nothing will happen to them. The harm that we may be causing our children by not sending them outside, may cause the child to have poor social skills, fitness issues, and irregular sleep cycles. Obesity is prevalent in children that stay indoors vs a child going outdoors by lack of physical exercise.
These facts are pretty scary, but as parents what can we do? There are many, parents today that have no choice but to have to carry two incomes just to make ends meet. With both parents working the child has to stay indoor. According to Alliance for childhood, the loss of child play: A Public Health Issues states that since 1970 decline in children’s play is well documented. Children now spend 50% less time in unstructured outdoor activities. Children ages 10 to 16 spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in physical activity. Yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless.
Parents are becoming fearful to send their children outdoors. Parents, regarding kids safety, are concerned about traffic, like their child getting run over, and a fear of being kidnapped. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that in 2011 (the latest year for which statistics are available) there were 61 million children aged 14 or under in the United States. Out of those multitudes, 230 lost their lives in pedestrian accidents that year. That’s about 0.00037 percent of the total. Another 11,000 children were merely injured — a rate of 0.01803 percent. According to the Crimes against Children Research Center, it says that were an estimated 115 stereotypical kidnapping. This is where a stranger grabs someone drives 50 miles and then kills them. However, most kidnappings come from relatives; 203,900 children in 1999 were abducted by a family member.
Another reason for keeping children inside is security. Nowadays, there isn’t a single neighbourhood that does not have at least one sex offender in the area. I checked my area and found that I have 37 sex offenders within a mile of my house. Parents should not put a blinds eye to this and should check out how many that they have in their area go to www.nsopw.gov. If our children are constantly under our close watch, then there is nothing to worry about if something may happen to them.
There are quite a few negative side effects of children not spending time outdoors. There is even a new disorder that came to be as a result of this. It is Nature Deficit Disorder. This basically is a disorder that children are developing by not being exposed to outdoor life as much as past generations. Nature Deficit Disorder is has shown that a lack of routine outdoor contact with nature, could result in stunted academic growth, and slowed developmental growth. This disorder has been tied to an increase in childhood obesity, increase in cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety issues, and childhood depression.
The following list is risks of children developing Nature Deficit Disorder, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation:
- Sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity have contributed greatly to the numerous health problems plaguing today’s children.
- Chronic conditions such as childhood obesity, asthma, and attention-deficit disorder have all increased over the past few decades.
- Approximately 16% of US children (~ 9 million) aged 6-19 are overweight or obese.
- Childhood obesity has doubled over the past 30 years for preschoolers and adolescents and more than tripled for children aged 6-11.
- These chronic conditions may lead to pulmonary, cardiovascular, and mental health problems in adulthood.
- Outdoor activity in the natural environment has taken a back seat to television, video games, the computer, and a demanding schoolwork and extracurricular schedule.
- Today’s youth are losing the contact with the natural environment that is potentially beneficial for their health and well-being.
Another health risk of staying indoors is myopia. Myopia is the medical term for nearsightedness. Being outdoors helps prevent myopia from developing because your eyes are forced to focus continuously on objects both near and far. When stuck indoors, kids have their laptops, I pads, video games, and televisions in close eye contact. If someone looks at a screen for too long they can also become blind or have tunnel vision. It can also cause migraines. A child who does not see natural light from the sun, they could possibly have trouble regulating a sleep schedule. They might not realize whether it is day or night. Making the child to develop a poor sleeping habit.
Darcia Narvaez, a professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, wrote an amazing article in Psychology Today, about if is better play outdoor or indoor. The result is very, very important to know. She mentions about recent studies that indicate indoor play as “detrimental to children’s growth” while playing outdoor benefits kids physically and mentally, makes become those kids happier and faster at school, so in some way smarter. She ends with this effective conclusion:
“If children consistently exceed the recommended two hour limit on screen time, they will be at increased risk for chronic illness in the future! Furthermore, an increase in physical activity is not enough to reverse these effects. Screen time impacts physical health independent of physical activity, so the best solution is simply to reduce screen time, and maybe go to the library and do a paper book reading.”
The healthiest way to live is to live as natural as possible. In childhood, the child absorbs like a sponge, absorbing what nature gives to us. The child will learn unconsciously the natural way to live. Jon Henley of The Guardian a survey made by TV channel Eden on 2.000 kids between 8 to 12 years old, demonstrate children play at the most indoor, and they play outside only once in a week. Henley, almost ironically consider the British Hospital admit more injured kids by falling from a bed instead of falling from a tree. Then he reflects about if kids don’t play outdoors will have problems not only with individual development but more in the social development. If kids do not have social interaction they are more likely to not be able to socialize later in life. This can lead to the children’s inability to even learn in school or from peers. Later in life, the children could have issues with being anti-social.
Physical fitness is a very important part of survival in life. If a person becomes inactive for too long, they will start to gain weight. When you gain weight it can cause obesity and serious health problems. One major downside of children staying inside is becoming obese and unhealthy. Young children require a lot of physical activity because they are growing. When children are growing, they either burn off the excess baby fat or they store it. It is important for them to stay fit because they can die from being overweight.
There are excellent ways for us to solve the problem of obesity. Get the children to go outside. Parents can make it mandatory for children to spend at least one hour a day outside, by planning fun activities for them to do. Parents can also take the children to a park or even just throw a Frisbee in the backyard. Another way to get children outside is to reward them. If they spend a minimum of two hours outside then they will receive a food item they like, the child can also be reward with 30 minutes of use on an iPad or other technology devices. Parents are trying, however, by enrolling their child in structured activities such as dance classes, soccer, baseball/softball, basketball, football, in order to get their daily physical activity for that day.
Screens cannot be the solution to replace friends, and of course, stay indoor also bring kids to become fatter and not athletic, risking serious problems for all lifelong. In fact, for some people, handheld devices should be banned for kids under 12 years old. Cris Rowan summarized his own research in a simple ten reason in one article written for the website Moving to Learn which deal of exploring the effects of technology on children.
- Rapid brain growth
between 0 and 2 years, infant’s brains triple in size and continue in a state of rapid development to 21 years of age (Christakis 2011). Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to negatively affect executive functioning, and cause attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity, and decreased the ability to self-regulation e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010).
- Delayed Development
Technology use restricts movement, resulting in delayed development. One in three children now enters school developmentally delayed, negatively impacting on literacy and academic achievement (HELP EDI Maps 2013). Movement enhances attention and learning ability (Ratey 2008). Use of technology under the age of 12 years, is detrimental to child development and learning (Rowan 2010).
- Epidemic Obesity
TV and video game use correlates with increased obesity (Tremblay 2005). Children who are allowed a device in their bedrooms have 30% increased the incidence of obesity (Feng 2011). One in four Canadian, and one in three U.S. children are obese (Tremblay 2011). 30% of children with obesity, will develop diabetes, and be at risk for early stroke and heart attack, gravely shortening life expectancy (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention 2010). Due to obesity, 21st century children may be the first generation many of whom will not outlive their parents (Professor Andrew Prentice, BBC News 2002).
- Sleep Deprivation
60% of parents do not supervise their child’s technology usage, and 75% of children are allowed technology in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation 2010). 75% of children aged 9 and 10 years are sleep deprived to the extent that their grades are detrimentally impacted (Boston College 2012).
- Mental Illness
Technology overuse is implicated as a causal factor in rising rates of child depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, attention deficit, autism, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and problematic child behaviour (Bristol University 2010, Mentzoni 2011, Shin 2011, Liberatore 2011, Robinson 2008). One in six Canadian children has a diagnosed mental illness, many of whom are on dangerous psychotropic medication (Waddell 2007).
Violent media content causes child aggression (Anderson 2007). Young children are increasingly exposed to rising incidence of physical and sexual violence in today’s media. Grand Theft Auto V portrays explicit sex, murder, rape, torture, and mutilation, as do many movies and TV shows. The U.S. has categorized media violence as a Public Health Risk due to causal impact on child aggression (Huesmann 2007). Media reports increased use of restraints and seclusion rooms with children who exhibit uncontrolled aggression (Vancouver Sun 2013).
- Digital dementia
High-speed media content causes attention deficit, as well as decreased concentration and memory, due to the brain pruning neuronal tracks in the frontal cortex (Christakis 2004, Small 2008). Children who can’t pay attention, can’t learn.
As parents attach more and more to technology, they are detaching from their children. In the absence of parental attachment, detached children attach to devices, resulting in addiction (Rowan 2010). One in 11 children aged 8-18 years are addicted to technology (Gentlie 2009). Never in the history of humankind has there been child addictions.
- Radiation Emission
In May of 2011, the World Health Organization classified cell phones (and other wireless devices) as a category 2B risk (possible carcinogen) due to radiation emission (WHO 2011). James McNamee with Health Canada in October of 2011 issued a cautionary warning stating “Children are more sensitive to a variety of agents than adults as their brains and immune systems are still developing, so you can’t say the risk would be equal for a small adult as for a child” (Globe and Mail 2011). In December 2013 Dr Anthony Miller from the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health recommends that based on new research, radio frequency exposure should be reclassified as a 2A (probable carcinogen), not a 2B (possible carcinogen). American Academy of Pediatrics requested the review of EMF radiation emissions from technology devices, citing 3 reasons regarding the impact on children (AAP 2013).
- Unsustainable The ways in which children are raised and educated with technology are no longer sustainable (Rowan 2010). Children are our future, but there is no future for children who overuse technology. A team-based approach is necessary and urgent in order to reduce the use of technology by children. Please reference below slides shows on zonein.ca under videos to share with others who are concerned about technology overuse by children.
Unfortunately, we are living in an era where parents cannot do what a parent is expected of them to do. Before, the father is the one working to earn the money for the family, while the mother stays home taking care of the house and raising the children. However, with both parents having to work, there is no energy to look after the children, leaving them indoors using the technology available to them. The parents also have the fear that something will happen to them, leaving them indoors without the possibility of just being a child. If the parents are afraid of the security of their children to send them outside to play, what kind of society are we living in? We as parents need to start taking action by find the way of sending children outdoors.
Alliance for Childhood.(n.d.)> “Policy brief 1”. Paper. http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/Health_brief.pdf
Crimes against Children research center. “Kidnapping”.(n.d.) Online. http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/kidnapping/
Education.com. “Why is Environmental Education important?” (n.d.).Online http://www.education.com/facts/quickfacts-ndd/why-environmental-education-important/
Henley J. “Why our children need to get outside and engage with nature”. The Guardian. August 16, 2010. Online. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/16/childre-nature-outside-play-health
Louv R.. “Why Kids Need to Spend Time Outdoors”. SparkPeople. (n.d,).Online. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1616&page=2
Marlys H. Kids stay indoors: “What happened to, `Go outside and play`?”. Minnpost. August, 9 2013. Online. http://www.minnpost.com/cityscape/2013/08/kids-stay-indoors-what-happened-go-outside-and-play
NAN. “Children who stay indoors most times risk myopia-Ophthalmologists”. Premium Times. June 5, 2013. News. Online. http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/137695-children-who-stay-indoors-most-times-risk-myopia-ophthalmologists.html
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts. May 2013. Paper. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811767.pdf
Navaez D.”Does Too Much Screen Time Make Kids Sick?”. Psychology Today. April 3, 2014. Online < http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201404/does-too-much-screen-time-make-kids-sick>
Navaez D.”What’s better: Indoor or Outdoor Play?”. Psychology Today. April 5, 2014. Online http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201404/whats-better-indoor-or-outdoor-play Pooja S. T, Zhou C, Christakis.A. D. “Frequency of Parent-Supervised Outdoor Play of US Preschool-Aged Children”. Jama Pediatrics. August, 2012. Online. http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1149487&resultClick=3
Rowan C. “Ten reasons why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12”. Moving to Learn. February 24, 2014. Online. http://movingtolearn.ca/2014/ten-reasons-why-hand-held-devices-should-be-banned-for-children-under-the-age-of-12