Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cotton-Wool or Free-Range Kids?

For some time now I have strongly suspected that we have become far more attached to our technology than is good for us. (Contrary to what this sentence may indicate, I am NOT about to embark on technology-bashing!) Recently it seems every newspaper and periodical I pick up has an article that in some way points to my suspicion as survey after survey shows that we are increasingly living technology-filled and virtually nature-free lives! One article posed the question” Cotton-wool kids – or free-range children?” I wonder, do we consciously make that choice, or is it just happening as we get wrapped up in texting, tweeting, emailing and friending, while we try to navigate the increasing demands on our time as well as that of our children – scheduling all their activities, not to mention ensuring their protection – and ending our days by collapsing in front of the TV? 
Apparently less than ten percent of children today regularly play in the free outdoors, (this compares to fifty percent of their parents when they were children). One study shows that kids can more easily identify a fictional character from TV than a wild animal. We all know that obesity levels have tripled in the last decade, and children’s mental  health is on a sharp decline.
Technology in and of itself is, of course, not the culprit; it’s the way we employ it - our indiscriminate use of it - that’s the problem. Social media was never meant to disconnect us from nature. It was, and is, merely meant to be a tool that, if anything should give us more freedom!
So while I’m on a roll speculating, I hypothesize that if each time we go to use that tool, to for example text, we ask ourselves is this really necessary, we may find it is not! If each time we click the facebook tab to check the latest posts, we ask ourselves do I need to do this now; or when we go to check our emails for the fifth time today we question the necessity, we may discover the answer is no. And when we reach for the cell phone for whatever reason we instead stop and look around us and take a moment to connect with our environment, directly through our senses, maybe we would glance upon a leaf or a tree and be reminded of nature, wherever we find it. Practising such self-questioning, we may eventually discover we have a little more time to get out into nature and to take our children out into nature, not for the purpose of DOING anything specific, but for no other reason than to just enJOY it – freely………. free-range!

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