Children today are fighting an uphill battle. From the time they wake up until the time they go to bed, they are bombarded with screens (TV, phone, iPad, Chrome book, etc.). Even doctors’ offices now have TVs in their lobbies, making it harder for families to actually communicate with one another amidst the distraction of the screen. Schools have also joined in, placing a high value on tech skills, while not realizing the detriment it places on student health. Is it any wonder that our kids are growing up with ADHD, anxiety, and depression?
As our kids are spending more time indoors and on screens, they are becoming more disconnected from nature, spending an average of just 4-7 minutes a day outside. Read that again: 4-7 minutes. Yet they’re spending 7+ hours a day staring at screens (1). Richard Louv, author of “Last Child In The Woods” calls this epidemic Nature Deficit Disorder. Upon interviewing a young child for his book, Louv was told the child preferred being inside because “That’s where all the electrical outlets are”.
Since screens aren’t obviously going away anytime soon, one may wonder what we can do to help our children, especially if they are already struggling with anxiety or depression. What if they’re already addicted to screens? Is there hope? Thankfully, the answer is YES! Getting our kids outdoors is the best thing we can do for their mental health. What if we changed the dynamic and had our kids outside playing in nature for 7+ hours a day and only 4-7 minutes per day on screens?
“But what if my child fights it?”
The more a child fights being outside, the more they need it. Putting up a huge fight is a key sign the child is becoming addicted to screens. Being outdoors reduces anxiety, depression, and ADHD symptoms, and can even prevent these and other mental health disorders (2). Children of all ages can benefit from spending lots of time outside ~ climbing trees, building forts, splashing in rain/mud puddles, digging in the dirt, being creative with the natural elements they find along the ground, and so on.
When we start shifting our focus away from technology and back to the natural world, we will see our children’s mental health start to improve. We just need to take the first step to make it happen. Let that first step be today.
(1). Cohen. D. (unknown year). Child Mind Institute. Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature. https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-need-to-spend-time-in-nature/#full_article
(2). Bushak, L. (Oct. 26th, 2013). Medical Daily. Benefits Of Ecotherapy: Being In Nature Fights Depression, Improves Mental Health And Well-Being. https://www.medicaldaily.com/benefits-ecotherapy-being-nature-fights-depression-improves-mental-health-and-well-being-261075
*Originally published on LinkedIn on March 3rd, 2022