Technology or Nature? Can Kids Find a Healthy Balance?

Technologically connected kids are everywhere! Last night a commercial for one of the travel booking agency was on TV and the man was so distraught over having to leave the gorgeous island of his vacation, that he dove off the shuttle boat and swam back, hugging the surprised man upon arrival. His wife sat on the shuttle looking dumbfounded. Now here is the unfortunate sign of the times. The two children were sitting there near their mother on the boat wearing headphones playing on their electronics.

A child close to my heart yesterday was in the car for the 4 minute drive from my house to his and was bored and couldn’t wait to get home to his ipod having just used the ipad at my house. It was a withdrawal that wasn’t dispelled by our discussion of gratitude, the beauty around us and the designs the clouds made. It was a four minute ride! * This is hard for me to digest as a former technology teacher.

Earning a Certificate of Instructional Computing in the 90s before there was a degree, it was my heart felt responsibility to bring to all children the tool that was the computer. In the beginning it was educational games like Oregon Trail, and then the use of Basic to create artistic pictures, and later as the internet grew to research, recognize quality sources and record them, and create reports, slideshows, and brochures of their finished product. They did it in class once or twice a week. At recess they played outside. I had envisioned computer use growing and improving, but did not see it being replaced by the handhelds.   Many would argue the opposite, but sometimes I don’t see them as tools anymore. Sure most can do what a computer can do and do some things better, but too often for some children they are an avoidance of human interaction. Are children losing social skills because they are not socializing with anything but their electronics and in a setting where there is no feedback?

Menas Kafatos, blogged an interesting and alarming article in the Huffington Post that stated from the journal ‘Pediatrics’, that kids on average spend 30 minutes a week outside and spend more time with some form of technology than they do in school. He said that children not only have a disconnect with people but also nature. He went on to say “our brain is genetically wired to thrive when gazing at the sunset, hearing the sound of wind through trees, or feeling the warm touch of the sun on our skin.” Are children failing to thrive physically, emotionally and spiritually for lack of connection with Nature?

Science is now legitimatizing the deep connection that all living beings have with nature that spiritual leaders have contended for years. While the brain needs nature to flourish, I believe the heart needs to connect as well and that children need time outdoors to investigate, enjoy and just be one with nature. For me, meditation almost always begins with a vision of me being near water. I know others who connect with trees and rocks. Notice that those visions are all with nature?

A study at the University of Illinois showed that ADHD children without their medication that spent 20 minutes a day walking in a park like setting, did better on tests in the areas of concentration, focus and achievement than when they were on medication. Interesting…

As I sit here on my computer blogging, checking Twitter, Facebook and email, I certainly give credit for the value of technology as a tool. I couldn’t live without it. But balance in life in all areas is needed by us all, especially our children. Let them stimulate their brain and connect with their God within in the peace and beauty of nature.

*update- about 4 days after writing the blog, we took a ride to the next town over. Again he was bored. This time I ignored him and shortly he was singing to himself! Sometimes they just have to be bored to find their own creativity.





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