Nature vs Tech: Why Outdoor Activities Are Essential
Technology definitely has a time and place in our schools and we owe it to our pupils to teach them proper ways to use their devices for learning and communicating. However, we can also probably agree there are some downsides to all of this tech in our student’s lives.
Technology which opens our students up to a variety of pitfalls of dangers that range anywhere from cyberbullying to the health consequences of inactive lifestyles.
As educators, it’s no great surprise today’s technology is changing the way we monitor our children, communicate, interact, and engage with our students and, everyday we are on the frontlines watching and coping with the consequences as they unfold.
This makes it essential that we slow down and re-evaluate the role we allow technology to play in our classrooms. This is especially vital when we consider teens are digitally connected for 9 hours everyday! Yes, that is almost the same amount of time spent in school. If that statistic isn’t jaw dropping enough, we need to factor in that their younger counterparts clock in over 6 daily hours and children younger than 8 net nearly 3 hours a day!.
This data inevitably means that our children are missing out on important opportunities and activities to interact, explore, observe, and learn about the world around them. Instead of building new relationships or mastering valuable life skills, our boys and girls are inevitably living a distracted life. This is difficult for us to face, because we can only control what our students do during the hours we have them entrusted to our care. One simple way we can counteract too much technology is by examining the importance of outdoor activities and find ways for kids to strike a happy balance.
Why Outdoor Activities are Essential for Kids
Over the course of the last few decades, a lot has changed in education as we strive to include more technology and teach for the test. While this has helped push in more STEAM activities and HAL opportunities, it has also led to a significant decrease in the amount of time allocated for recess, physical education, and the fine arts. To put this trend into perspective, according to the National Wildlife Foundation, today’s children are spending approximately half the amount of time outside than we did when we were kids.
Listed below is a small sampling of why outdoor activities are essential for kids:
- Poor indoor air quality is common in many schools. Fresh air is healthy!
- There is an increased risk for obesity, hypertension, and more that comes with reduced exercise and sedentary lifestyles.
- Green spaces have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels in children- and even adults.
- The outdoors provide exposure to dirt, germs, and bacteria which boost a child’s immune system.
- Activities like gardening in the outdoors can help students develop observational skills and learn science concepts.
- Sunlight provides beneficial vitamin D which can help energy levels and strengthen bones.
- Adequate exposure to sunlight also helps set a child’s circadian rhythms, which will help them develop a proper sleep schedule to enhance social and educational performance in school.
- Outdoor activities and green spaces naturally improve many of the symptoms related to ADHD in children.
The Dangers of Too Much Technology
The reasons why outdoor activities are essential for kids is pretty solid, but we can’t overlook the possible dangers associated with too much technology. Our students’ devices might be entertaining, but there are real reasons educators need to be concerned. The following list shows why we need to help students find a healthy balance with technology in their lives:
- Direct links between overuse of social media and increases in depression, feelings of low self-esteem, and anxiety have been documented in young people.
- Devices can interrupt or cause distraction during key learning times in a classroom.
- Our kids might be set up for a lifetime of joint and neck pain if they don’t embrace proper ergonomics.
- Digital devices and fast paced stimuli can actually physically alter a child’s brain.
- The glow from our screens and constant notifications can disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep schedules leading to poor sleep.
- Overusing technology limits one-on-one communication opportunities for kids which may inhibit relationship and social skills development.
Benefits of Being Outside
Technology is obviously here to stay and we can’t feasibly ban all devices from our schools. However, a little mindfulness and proactive planning can go a long way. With a little creative thinking we can help students find a healthy balance with technology and nature.
Here is an easy to follow infographic from My Open Country that explores the mental and physical benefits of spending time outside.