Kids these days! I bet you have heard your grandparents or parents say this, or maybe you have even said it. If you are north of 30, you probably have. It seems every generation thinks the younger generation is just “too much” or “not enough” according to the older generation’s standards. Too much music and TV and not enough outside time was the complaint my grandparents leveled at my generation.
Today’s parents and grandparents probably believe “too much device time and not enough outside time.” This brings me to a thread of consistency over generations; we must get our kids outside. Why is this important? According to Google: “If you spend time outdoors in green spaces, your cortisol levels decrease. When your cortisol levels decrease, your stress and anxiety decline, and you gain better control of your emotions, including fear and anger. Without stress, your body functions as it should.” But beyond this, why is it essential for our kids to be outdoors?
Playing outside promotes curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. Studies have found that children who spent more time exploring nature had improved learning outcomes. Kids were more positive in behavior. Research shows that when children spent time in natural settings, they had less anger and aggression. When we get outside, we simply breathe better. Our bodies settle. Fight or flight mode decreases. All of these positive outcomes are the opposite of what happens when we stay inside and on devices. Also, spoiler alert, if you sit outside but stay on your phone, you negate the benefits of being outside. The whole point is to engage with nature.
What is really interesting is that our bodies instinctively tell us that we feel better when we are away from our devices. Previous generations not only know this, but they also honor what their bodies need. Today’s generation has gotten good at not listening to their bodies cues.
The noise from devices and social media is much stronger than our bodies’ subtle nudge until it is too late. What do I mean by too late? I mean after we begin showing signs of anxiety, depression, frustration, and loneliness. But we can combat this by listening to the generations before us.
What feels “old hat’ to our grandparents will feel “new” to our kids today. Going outside for a walk, digging in the dirt to plant a garden, fishing, swimming in a stream, sitting out for a cold drink with friends…these things feel “new” to our kids. They may not be used to these activities and do not know how good they make them feel until they actually do them. It is becoming more and more apparent that we must teach new generations these “old hat” tricks.
Kids born this year will never know a world without AI. Their lives will be inundated with technology. And I, for one, do not believe that our children will have evolved so much in the next 15-20 years that they will struggle less than today’s youth with the constant technology. I believe the opposite is accurate, and they will struggle even more.
Evolution is slow for a reason. Change needs to be slow. We can help our children and grandchildren by teaching them to listen to those subtle cues. Listen to their bodies. Take them outside. Teach them to get their hands dirty, go for walks, and drink lemonade on the front porch.
In an overcomplicated world, this seems so simple. But it is not only incredibly effective at combating the psycho-social and emotional issues our kids face today due to devices; it prepares them for years to come. It is our way “out” of the constant stress of the online world. It is the answer that we consistently look for. It is free. It is simple.
Kristi Bush serves as a national education consultant and social media safety advocate. She is a licensed social worker with greater than 15 years of clinical practice and health care experience. She attended Troy and Auburn University where she studied social work and counseling. Kristi travels nationally and has spoken with thousands of children, parents, professionals and organizations about the benefits and threats associated with social media. You may reach Kristi through her website at www.knbcommunications.com.