Parents, foster agency, plug your kids into fresh air, sunshine and movement

Our grandsons would spend more time, if they could, in their electronic worlds. Screen time has a place, but not every place.

Parents can lead by example by taking an active role in not only monitoring the online content their child consumes, but also by limiting the time spent in the metaverse.

Now that school’s out, there are lots of meaningful, fresh air and sunshine ways in which kids can physically engage and build hands-on experience. As grandparents, we are aware of how easy it would be to leave our grandchildren to their own electronic devices. The upsides fairly match the downsides and parents do well to understand that screen time affects a child’s health and well-being. Emphasis on eyes focused at close range and a lack of gross motor skills challenge a child’s need to exercise distance vision and large muscle coordination necessary for moving through physical spaces in the real world.

Spending time on virtual screens is time spent away from in-person social interaction in real life situations. Artificial light from screens can interfere with sleep. Powerful cutting edge technology comes with powerful responsibility. And your child’s activities online is data collected and stored, and even sold to third parties.

In the 21st century in which we live, where everything from menus to health to banking to education and beyond is digitally driven, we are comfortable, but we must not become complacent.

I have no qualms disrupting an ever-growing interconnected system casting what appears to be a neural net around our everyday lives. Rather than wasting time chiding our kids about the potentially sedentary result of online inaction and its given surveillance we mobilize by offering unplugged alternatives. We expect groans or scowls. But we press on knowingly, because the benefits from unplugging outweigh their temporary disappointment. Instead, we plug our kids into opportunities to exercise first hand experience and come away with useful skills and lasting knowledge about how the world actually works when you’re engaging it.

This morning my grandson is engrossed in a TikTok video. I give a heads up that we’ll be getting into our bathing suits momentarily and heading to a local pond to go swimming. I say this with calm and respect, firm and sure. It’s a beautiful day and we will seize it. Sitting is the new health hazard and God knows we all get too much of that. The kids are tasked with gathering their own towels and helping to load the car with a cooler, life jackets and oars for the canoe.

I know we live in a world where our phones with all their notifications and our earbuds ready in chargers are never very far away. My thought is, less talk, more action. We’ve experienced that scene in a public place when kids’ and adults’ heads are bowed to their handheld devices. So, if everyone is focused on millions of tiny screens, who’s focused on what’s happening in the real world in which we stand?

Put another way, should parents find it curious that tech moguls, such as the late Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, limited and even discouraged screen time for their own growing children?

So, instead of useless nagging or pulling the electronic rug out from under a child in an act of desperation, kick into gear. Go from passive worry to active solutions. When it comes to unplugging from a sophisticated piece of technology, kids will naturally resist.

Collin, on a recent sunny, lazy morning, wasn’t keen on leaving his iPad behind, even so, we were zipping into life jackets, and carrying the canoe down to the water’s edge. Finding our balance, we transitioned from land to lake, distributing our weight evenly. Soon we were gliding along lily pads spotting a bass breaking the surface of the water before spying a handful of sunning turtles as they slipped from their rocks and into the reeds below. Our grandson used his oar like a rudder steering us towards an island, where we discovered blueberries, miraculously saving some in a makeshift bag to bake muffins later on.

There’re many ways to unplug. Older kids can earn money by mowing or weeding or watering gardens. Every town has its local trails, parks, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, bike paths, ponds, rivers, and beaches to explore. Public places where families can get moving in healthy ways.

Electronics have a place, for sure, just not every place.

Back to top button