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Don’t let the title of this blog post fool you. Most people are wrong to assume that electronics are to blame for kids not playing outside anymore. While yes, it had become a multi-million dollar industry,starting with products for kids younger and younger each year. It’s not always the case as to why children aren’t playing outside.
Commute times are longer.
Due to extreme economic conditions in our part of California, In most the families that I know, the average commute distance to work is over 60 miles or 120 miles round-trip (the most extreme case I’ve seen is a 220 mile commute to work round trip).
How does commute effect our children?
Traffic that can put a parent leaving work at 5pm and not getting home until almost 6:30pm or 7:00pm nightly has this made child-care a must have, but it also leaves a parent at the mercy of organized activities. If they are going to have the kids “play” then they need a coach or instructor to be in charge.
Competition in general is higher now than ever before.
With college entrance requirements, higher debt ratios for parents, and the dream of playing in professional sports as an adult in parents minds, organized sports have taken off like wildfire. There are parents putting their children into organized activities at a much younger age then ever before and with practice or class schedules and game schedules, sometimes a kid is lucky if they do get “free play” time in a given week.
I remember my own parents being so happy when our soccer and basketball careers were over. We spent almost 8 years of our lives not having free weekends or free fall holidays open due to competition schedules and practices for our high school and city league sports programs. A mother-friend of mine says that there is about a 10 week period during baseball season where their family lives eats and breathes baseball due to her three sons each playing on a team.
Society in general is more connected globally but less connected locally. Personally, as an Army Brat I felt like we were sheltered from the real world. The bases we lived on for the most part had limited access to them. Most of the people who were around us seemed to have a moral and ethical code that was similar to our own. I’m not saying it was the most safe world in the place, but the thought was that when your kid went outside they’d come back in a few hours no problem.
A perfect example of how this is different now is the idea that my parents lived in a town for 15 years after dad retired and when they moved it seemed like only 2 families came to say goodbye and even after all that time I don’t think my parents knew some of their neighbors names. The trust level isn’t present anymore in neighborhoods where everyone is a stranger to eachother.
We can never get away from the dreaded electronics debate.
Most homes these days have more than one electronic device that children are using. Whether it’s a home computer, smart phone or game console, screen time does have an effect. They are definitely play a role in why children are spending less time outside. As much as these items are great advances in technology, sometimes you have to wonder why kids can’t just entertain themselves with a good game of tag. And it’s not just the kids, but parents too are more “addicted” to electronics leaving their kids without someone to be outside playing with them.
I have to admit, electronics are an easy way to wrangle your kids on a tough day. Whether it’s the heat of the summer, or a chore around the house that needs to get done, shoving the kids in front of a movie sometimes is a must. It’s sad, but really sometimes it’s the only thing that works.
Balance is what we have to concentrate on in the future. Mixing up the organized activities, free play, and electronic play is key. It’s great that a kid may watch a movie or play on a baseball or soccer team. However, they still need to have time to be a kid and play.
Parenting Science says:
Playful behavior appears to have positive effects on the brain and on a child’s ability to learn. In fact, play may function as an important, if not crucial, mode for learning. – read more…
How are your kids spending their summers? I’d love to hear some suggestions. How do you keep your play time and academic time and structured activities balanced?
This summer we will do swimming lessons. There will be family boating trips. And I’ll squeeze in a bit of academic work. My main goal is at least once a week to have time at the park to get the wiggles out. It’s important to let them explore life without anyone telling them how to play.