Saturday, April 14, 2012


It's been all over the news, talked about in teaching seminars and at camp conferences. It's been on people's radar screen for a while.

Kids are not outside these days.

I am sure there are articles with statistics and so on, but I did my own little informal research project. I drove around time a few times shortly after school got out in my town and counted the kids I saw. The highest number? Three. And two of them were using their phones.

The other kids, presumably, were in their houses, attending activities, or at the local library.

Why is this? Judging by conversations I have had, the biggest factor is fear. Kids can't be unsupervised in outdoor spaces: they might get hurt or stolen. Yes, being outdoors is risky. But how much more risky is it than being indoors? The risks are on a different list. If you are outdoors you might encounter a pedophile. If you are indoors you might encounter a home intruder. Both are rather remote possibilities. Steps can be taken to help children face either situation. Outdoors kids might fall out of a tree, get hit by a car or twist an ankle. Indoors they might get caught in a fire or suffer carbon monoxide poisoning.

I recently read an article that pointed out that there are social, psychological and spiritual risks to an indoor lifestyle. Another article talks about "Nature Deficit Disorder." In my view, kids who are indoors most of the time are missing out on important learning opportunities. They aren't watching worms, feeling rain, reflecting on trees. They don't bump into kids in the neighborhood and start a game. They don't have as many opportunites to learn to entertain themselves.

So what's the answer? How do we change things?

I don't know. I think summer camps can help, but we also need more unstructured outdoor time for kids on a regular basis. Or maybe I am just being nostalgic for my own childhood, which included a lot of free time with friends out side the house. Maybe society needs the kids to be indoors right now.

Your thoughts?

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