Kids, Technology, and the Great Outdoors

Fresh air and ... screen time?

Technology has come to influence virtually every aspect of modern life. Today’s children have grown up with technology in a way that no other generation of human beings has before. They are technologically fluent and literate almost from birth. It is a huge advantage for entering the high-tech world; it has also taken a toll on how much time they spend outside. Children of generations past spent their free time running through the park and swimming at the lake — not playing video games or watching Netflix.

Of course, children today are still doing those things; they’re just not doing them as much. In fact, a recent survey found that children today spend about half as much time playing outside as their parents did when they were kids. And though this comes with concerning consequences (including both physical and mental health problems), the way technology has influenced children’s relationship with nature isn’t all bad. In fact, technology can actually help children spend time outdoors and enjoy nature.

Road Trip Bliss

“Are we there yet?”

“Mom, I’m bored!”

“How much longer?”

Going on a road trip with kids is rarely easy. Many a road trip has quickly turned from fun to frustrating, as bored kids make it known to their agitated parents that they are not happy with the situation. However, technology has it made easier to keep kids entertained on long road trips. Movies and TV shows, music streaming, engaging games, and mobile apps have opened a world of entertainment for kids who are bored and stuck in a car or RV on a long drive. It also gives them a chance to use technology beforeing spending time disconnected on a camping or RVing trip. By giving them an outlet to avoid long road trips, they can better appreciate nature when they choose to engage with it.

Apps Take Kids Outside

While spending time outdoors and playing games on a phone seem like mutually exclusive activities, they don’t have to be. There are many mobile apps and other gadgets that can help encourage children to spend more time outside. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box; even playing with drones can contribute to a child’s outdoor education by helping them learn about the environment and other STEM topics.

Not only that, several of these apps, programs, or devices may teach users about nature by having them identify trees, animals, rocks, and even the stars. This kind of technology can help children channel their screen time in a productive, educational, and physical way. They will still be using their devices, but at least they will be using them while they are outside and exploring the world around them.

Appreciation of Nature

It may seem counterintuitive, but technology can help children cultivate an appreciation and love of nature. From streaming nature documentaries to seeing friends and family members post about their travels on social media, technology can open the wonders of the world up to children from the comfort and safety of their home.

Parents can curate what applications and websites their children have access to, in order to ensure they look at educational and entertaining content. Within reason, children can then research or look at whatever they’re interested in, whether it’s how volcanoes work or different kinds of marsupials. This kind of freedom and encouragement to learn can help inspire a lifelong interest in the natural world, influence future educational interests, and foster an enduring desire to spend time outside.

Technology is often vilified for myriad things, from ruining children’s relationships with their parents to stunting their creative development, including having a negative impact on the amount of time children spend outside. While this criticism is justified, it neglects to recognize all the good that technology can do for children. And at the end of the day, when it’s used in the right way, technology can help improve children’s relationship to the great outdoors.

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