rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Get your kids away from the screen and into the green

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Pushing our kids out the door may be the best way to save the planet.

In a survey conducted for the David Suzuki Foundation, 70 per cent of Canadian youth said they spend an hour or less a day in the open air. And when they are out, it’s usually to go from one place to another. In other words, it’s just a consequence of trying to be somewhere else.

Nearly half the young people surveyed said they don’t have enough time to join programs that would involve them in outdoor activities. School, work and other responsibilities make it difficult to do things like kick around a soccer ball or go for a walk with friends in the nearby woods.

For someone of my generation this is almost unfathomable. When I was a kid, being outside was the norm. Rain or shine, our parents would tell us to get out of the house. All those hours exploring the great outdoors made me more resilient and confident.

As a teenager in London, Ontario, my sanctuary was a swamp. I’d return home at the end of a day, often soaking wet and covered in mud, with my collection of insects, salamander eggs and turtles. That piqued my interest in science. Making tree forts and lying in fields watching the clouds stimulated my imagination and creativity. Being outside made me a happy, healthy kid and made me feel connected to the world around me. As a father, I also encouraged my kids to enjoy time outdoors, and one of my favourite activities now is exploring nature with my grandchildren.

In just a few generations, life has changed dramatically for children. Now, they can’t seem to find the time to play outdoors. They sit in front of screens for long periods of time. The gap between the time kids stay inside with electronic devices and the time they spend outside is widening. A U.S. survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found young people are engaged with entertainment media for an average of seven and a half hours a day. Over seven days, that’s longer than the average workweek!

We can’t blame children for occupying themselves with Facebook rather than playing in the mud. Our society doesn’t put a priority on connecting with nature. In fact, too often we tell them it’s dirty and dangerous.

As parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts we need to start getting out into nature with the young people in our lives. Families play a key role in getting kids outside. The David Suzuki Foundation survey found that youth were 20 per cent more likely to take part in outdoor programming or explore nature on their own if they spent time outside from an early age.

Younger teens reported that getting outside with their families was the best way to connect with nature. Older youth were more likely to explore nature spontaneously, on their own or with friends – likely because parents relax restrictions and allow them to do more of what they want.

And what they want is fun and adventure, at least when it comes to being outside. More than half the youth said they enjoy spending unstructured time in nature. They want to be outside in their neighbourhoods with their friends catching bugs, watching birds or riding bikes. This is great news.

What we need to do is encourage them – and sometimes just get out of their way.

We need to make sure our neighbourhoods have green spaces where people can explore their connections with nature. We need to ask teachers and school board representatives to take students outside regularly to incorporate the natural world into everything they learn. And we need to stop making the outdoors scary for children.

If we don’t, we’ll never raise the next generation of environmental stewards to help protect and celebrate the wonders of nature. After all, people are more likely to look after something they have come to know and cherish.

Parents need to remember all the fun times they had outside as kids. They need to trust their children, and kick them out the door like my Mom did. Our survival may depend on it.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Specialist Leanne Clare.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

For more insights from David Suzuki, please read Everything Under the Sun (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation), by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington, now available in bookstores and online.

 

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.