No Child Left Inside

       

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By Mark Martin and Kim Bonney

CBN News

It’s the dog days of summer. If you think your children are out in
the backyard climbing trees or riding bikes around the neighborhood,
you’re probably wrong.

Chances are they’re right in your living room chatting online or
watching TV. And that’s got a growing number of experts worried we
might just be raising the first generation of "indoor children."

View video here

In this report, CBN News examines the troubling gap between kids and nature.

What’s wrong with this picture? A warm summer day in a typical
suburban neighborhood. Neighbors are out taking a walk. But why is it
so quiet?

Where are all the kids?

"A little boy in a classroom said that ‘the reason I prefer playing
indoors is because that’s where all the electrical outlets are,’"
author Richard Louv said.

Louv is author of the New York Times bestselling book, Last Child in the Woods. In it, he details the many dangers of growing up disconnected from nature, a problem Louv calls "nature deficit disorder."

Louv said, "One woman came up to me recently and said that her
community had outlawed chalk drawing on the sidewalk. We’re raising a
generation of children under virtual house arrest."

The National Sporting Goods Association reports that since 1995 the
number of children hiking, swimming, and fishing has declined by more
than 20 percent. Even bike riding has dropped 31 percent over the past
five years.

Dept. of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said, "…actually, in
some of our national parks, you’re seeing a trend that is down."

If you’re like many Americans, you’ll hit the highways this August.
But don’t expect the kids to play I-Spy or your other favorite family
road-trip games. Who wants to look out the window when you can watch a
DVD in the backseat?

X-Box and IPod’s aren’t the only culprits. Louv suggests that parents
are simply afraid to let their children play outside despite evidence
children today are actually safer. Violent crimes against children have
dropped more than 38 percent in 30 years.

It’s up to the parents to monitor their children’s play time inside and outside.  Which activities would you suggest to get children and parents playing outside together?

"Parents, most of all, feel this sense of fear," Louv said. "They’re
scared to death of stranger-danger. That’s, I think, the underbelly of
this issue."

What’s frightening is the number of children who actually gain
weight over the summer months. Nationwide, childhood obesity rates have
nearly quintupled among 6- to 11-year-olds and tripled among teens and
preschool aged kids 2 to 5 since the 1970s.

Kempthorne said, "We’re now seeing Type 2 diabetes, adult onset
diabetes, that’s occurring now routinely in 6-year-old children."

"Whatever we’re doing now is not enough. The greatest increase in
child obesity in our history occurred during the same two decades as
the greatest increase in organized sports for children in our history.
Soccer’s great, but it’s not doing the trick," Louv said.

A new ad campaign by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services just may be the trick. Together with DreamWorks Animation,
they’re urging kids to "Get out and play an hour a day."

It’s a start. In fact, there’s a nationwide movement underway to
"leave no child inside." From hearings on Capitol Hill to legislative
programs like the Texas "Life is Better Outside" program, some kids are
getting back to nature.

J.T. Maxwell is founder of the Charlottesville, Va.-based
GrandClassroom, which has been organizing student field trips to the
Grand Canyon for five years.

"This year we brought about 1,500 students from all over the
country," Maxwell said. "From all four corners, from as close as
Arizona and as far away as Maine."

You can even watch a music video by students from Brookline, Massachusetts on YouTube about their class trip.

Maggie Byrd and Lizzie Dabbs are among a group of 50 rising high
school freshman from Richmond, Virginia who just got back from the
Grand Canyon.

Maggie said, "At first you think, oh-my-gosh, that’s amazing, it’s
so beautiful. And then you’re next thought is, it’s so big and like, so
perfect. You’re almost like, it almost looks fake."

"It was really different out West and it was something that I’d,
like, never seen before," Lizzie said, "how it was a lot hotter and a
lot drier."

It’s the same reaction that 8th grade science teacher Anne Green
gets from students every year. This is Green’s third trip with her
students.

Green said, "I’ll ask them, You know, what would you be doing right
now? ‘Oh I’d be playing this particular game, I’d be instant messaging
or IMing or on my cell phone.’"

"I just think it opens their minds so much more than to be in one
spot your whole life," Green said, "and on a computer, in a home and
not going outside and experiencing nature. It just closes your world."

Whether through environmental education, nature centers, or Scouting
organizations, Louv says the key is getting parents involved. Just ask
Travis and his mom. They’ve been involved with the Boy Scouts since
first grade.

"It really does a lot for these boys to know that they can do things
that they never thought that they could do," Travis’ mom said.

"You sit at home, you do nothing, you don’t learn nothing," Travis said. "You learn stuff by doing it."

Brett Smiley, a regional director of Boy Scouts, said, "For about 80
percent of the boys that come here, this is their first experience in
being outside or swimming in a natural environment. Once they realize
that they will be okay after they swim in the lake, it’s one more level
of confidence that they have about themselves and about the real
world."

Which prompts the question, where would these Scouts be if it weren’t for places like T. Brady Saunders Boy Scout Camp?

And where will our children be, if recreational habits don’t change?

"It would be a sad thing that, as the stewards of America’s
treasures, we didn’t bring along the next generation of the stewards,"
Kempthorne said.

Louv said, "All of the good things that come to children — from
longer attention span, the stress reduction, the sense of wonder — all
of this come immediately to the adult who takes children into nature,
so this is not a bitter pill."

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