There are multiple memes and posts floating around social media which compare the youth experiences of older generations to a perceived sense of youth today. Typically these comparisons highlight the wonder of being outside as compared to an assumption that today’s youth are technology obsessed.
It is easy to point to technology as the reason young people do not go out and play as has been the reality for children across the centuries. While technology does provide options that engage young people, it is important to avoid assuming that this is simply a cause and effect equation.
Fear of outside
A plethora of information has fed concerns of parents since the 80s when public service announcements talked about ‘stranger danger’. The result has been parents are more reluctant to allow their children to play outside citing multiple concerns including traffic, the possibility of being snatched by a stranger, the attitude of neighbours and more.
Added to these concerns are environmental concerns that have been raised recently including the possibility of getting Lyme disease from tick bites and the increased risk of getting West Nile virus from mosquito bites These realities help to feed our fears creating a space in which some are beginning to wonder if we are becoming nature phobic.
The prevalence of scheduled activities has also increased significantly over the years enabling parents to enroll their children in everything from sports to music to science programs and more. Windsor’s Activity Guide provides opportunities for young people to remain active throughout the summer. While these opportunities can be beneficial for the development of children, a case has been made that scheduling activities makes it harder for children to engage in creative, spontaneous play.
What is meaningful?
In the end, perhaps the more important question to ask is what is meaningful for young people? The tools available to today are significantly different from anything experienced previously and young people are finding ways to make meaning through technology, programming and quiet time. While these opportunities may not fit with how we experienced or understand childhood, that doesn’t necessarily mean young people can’t learn, develop and grow through these opportunities.
The key is balance – ensuring that our children are physically and mentally active in ways that make sense for them. How does this work in your family? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today. Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/