Growing up in America before the Internet, kids played outside all day long, had greater self-awareness, and made-up games to play with neighbors, learning how to communicate with others. Teamwork and imagination were part of their emotional growth. Children had better physical development advanced motor skills. Many of us made ramps and jumps for our bikes, rolled down ice plant ravines with cardboard boxes, and spent hours exploring the neighborhood while learning how to mitigate our risks. We would return home for dinner, sometimes with scrapes and bruises. Most of us kids would use our critical thinking skills to plan our next day of adventures and do our best to perfect our strategies to lessen the risks, hoping for less pain. Adolescence is a time for challenging yourself and changing.
If you're not doing that as a child, your brain is missing out on the fantastic chance for creativity and problem-solving.
We need children to participate in and experience emotional and social learning daily. Kids that play outside use all five senses with sensory engagement with the world, touch, feel, smell, sight, and hearing, in contrast to online activities or TV, where they only use sight and hearing while they sit. While outdoor play can be challenging in some communities with safety issues and a lack of green space, getting kids involved with other activities offline and away from the TV is still a great idea. The benefits are too great to ignore, better mental health, lower stress, increased happiness, and more energy.
So as a parent, what can you do to get your child off the Internet and couch and outside to play? You must be an example get off your device and take your children outside often. Make it fun and part of your routine. Encourage your kids to explore. Go on a scavenger hunt. Here are 35 Creative Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g32050844/scavenger-hunt-ideas-for-kids/
By strategizing your children's time away from devices, they will learn how to collaborate with other kids, gain independence and build confidence and self-esteem. All are beautiful byproducts of outdoor exportation.
And if these reasons are not enough for a parent to encourage their child to be off devices and outside. We can take some time and understand how our device usage is taking a toll on our children. In this large international study of six thousand eight-to thirteen-year-old children, 32 percent reported feeling "unimportant" when their parents use their cellphones during meals, conversations, or other family times. The children reported competing with technology for their parent's attention. Over half of the children in the study said their parents spend too much time on their phones. In addition, Psychology Today had a great article titled Why Parents Really Need to Put Down Their Phones.
Parents on devices distress children and reduce their resilience.
Unfortunately, some parents and teachers profoundly contribute to negatively rewiring kids' brains. It's alarming to see what has happened to generations of kids since the Internet was developed and social media has taken over the childhood of so many children.
They are a generation that has been subjected to an experiment. An excellent eye-opening documentary to watch is called Childhood 2.0. We can say they are Guinea pigs for what happens when you give a young child full access to the Internet and social media without boundaries. Kids are exposed to pornography and bullying, they are distracted, their sleep is disrupted, and they have unrealistic views of others with filters, sexting, and sextortion, leading many kids to be more depressed and anxious than any generation before.
There is more self-harm, and for the first time in history, mental illness and suicide have become one of the greatest threats to school-age children. Rates for every measurable negative impact on their mental health that you could think of have taken place because of social media and online life.
Then add the pandemic that took years away from students while reducing school and in-person interactions critical to becoming an adult and developing unique personality traits, building fortitude. And don't get me started on letting kids choose not to go through puberty because you don't want them to have to go through such a difficult time in life. That is life. Puberty is a rite of passage with all the awkwardness, acne, and body changes. It brings me to the old saying, "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger."
Kids have suffered; in some cases, our younger generation has been taught to be risk-averse and to believe that they're safer inside and that the outside world is dangerous.
And that you should only share thoughts or debate if they are the same as the group. Voices are being silenced instead of being explored. They have focused on safe places and are fragile. Yikes! The fundamental life lesson that needs to be reiterated is that you can scrape your knee and get up and be fine, put a band-aid on, and go on. If you break a bone, get it set and go on. Debating a point may teach you how to view something from a different perspective. And that every time you fumble, and you get back up, you're that much stronger,
If we want to make a difference in the future, we must make the change now and get kids to explore, speak, and make mistakes that won't take their life but will give them cultural agility and mental and physical strength.
They need to learn how to have free play to live their life and get off their devices. We can, as a society, force a change. The generations before always looked out for the younger generations. It is up to us to direct the children to be better than us. It is not our best interest to be the last of the greatest generation. Let's keep it going. Protect the children, teach them values and boundaries, how to be kind, and show them empathy and love. Put the phones down and spend time together. Watch them grow. Let time pass like molasses, and try to take snapshots with your mind, not your phone. Be present at the moment and help the younger generation experience what it's like to be disconnected from devices.
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