On average, how much time do you think our teens are spending on their phones and technology everyday?
Many of us might answer with a couple of hours. After all, teens and media seem to go hand-in-hand, like peanut butter and jelly. Unfortunately, even though our guesses are high, the true average is mind-boggling. According to recent statistics, our teens are roughly spending 9 hours consuming media on a daily basis! Check out this infographic from Common Sense Media about how this media use is distributed.
As parents, this revelation is disheartening, suddenly casting all the warnings about technology in a different light. Instead of days playing in the backyard, our children and teens are swiping away the hours and days of their childhoods and are being lured into a sedentary lifestyle by their glowing screens, games, social media, and televisions. That’s why, as parents, we need to carefully examine the impact technology has on our kids and why our teens need to be outside.
WHY OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES ARE ESSENTIAL FOR TEENS
We can all appreciate that our devices have revolutionized the way we communicate, share ideas, consume media, and interact with others on exciting new platforms. Technology definitely has a time and place, but the fast-paced digital devices are invading our child’s lives at alarming rates. In actuality, our kids are spending more time, about 63 hours a week, than most adults spend at our full-time jobs!
A lot has changed in the few years since we were kids, with many of our children seeking refuge inside at alarming rates. According to the National Wildlife Foundation, our children spend half the amount of time outside than our generation did. It’s easy for us to rationalize why our kids are spending more time inside. We have pollution, unsafe streets, and urban sprawl to contend with today. Unfortunately, the glowing computer screens and technology can easily persuade our kids to happily stay indoors.
Here are six reasons why outdoor activities are essential for teens:
- Fresh air is good for you! Indoor pollution is rampant in today’s homes, schools, and offices.
- Sedentary lifestyles can lead to higher risks for obesity, hypertension, and more.
- Green spaces have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety
- Exposure to dirt, germs, and bacteria from outside actually boost our immune systems.
- Sunlight provides beneficial vitamin D for energy levels and strengthening bones.
- Fresh air and outdoor spaces have been shown to improve symptoms of ADHD in children.
THE DOWNSIDE TO TECHNOLOGY
After seeing all the positives associated with nature, we need to consider the possible dangers with tech overload. Today’s ever-changing advancements might be entertaining, but when they combine with cyberbullying, online predators, inappropriate content, and real health problems, parents do have reason to be concerned. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends we limit screen time for our children. Here’s a Family Media Time Toolkit from the AAP.
Here’s why we need to reduce technology time in our homes:
- Overuse of social media has been linked to an increase in anxiety, depression, and feelings of low self-esteem.
- Technology use has been found to cause joint and neck pain.
- The fast-paced stimuli can physically alter how our brains are wired, especially within the prefrontal cortex which can increase the probability of addiction for teens.
- Glowing screens and constant notifications disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep
- Too much technology can limit one-on-one communication and inhibit the development of relationships and social skills.
It’s obvious that technology is here to stay and we can’t realistically ban all electronics from our everyday lives. However, with a little mindfulness, we can challenge ourselves to find a healthy balance between technology and nature. To help us on this journey, scroll through the following six ideas to get our teens reaquainted with nature:
- Try to get everyone outside for one hour. You don’t have to go far to enjoy the benefits of green spaces. Head out in the backyard or take a walk around the neighborhood.
- Keep cell phones, game devices, and other technology away from the dinner table. By limiting access during family meals, you can reclaim the lost art of conversation and connecting with each other.
- Grow something! As a family, take up gardening or volunteer for community gardens. Toiling in the dirt as a great way to foster an appreciation of all things green while doing a good deed. If you can’t get outside to garden, consider bringing plants inside.
- Implement technology-free time. Every evening all electronics get powered down and plugged in so they’re ready for the next day.
- Keep technology in common living areas and out of bedrooms. This will prevent risky behaviors and interrupted sleep.
What tips do you have for getting teens back outside?
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. @AmyKWilliams1