The SNEWS View: How do we unplug today’s kids?

I’m a little worried about today’s kids. Sure, I’ve heard how plugged in they are to electronics, video games, cell phones, etc., but I’ve never really had that much first-hand experience with the issue…until recently.
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I’m a little worried about today’s kids. Sure, I’ve heard how plugged in they are to electronics, video games, cell phones, etc., but I’ve never really had that much first-hand experience with the issue…until recently. 

I spent some time with old friends who have a 7-year-old son, Sammy. His parents are great people, but don’t lead very active lifestyles because of health issues and hectic work schedules. 

He has a playroom filled with toys and a backyard with a fort-like jungle gym set, but Sammy’s favorite thing to do is play on the Wii. He’s allotted two-hour increments of Wii time only on the weekends…and I have to say that kid practically counts down the minutes until he gets to hang out with the Super Mario Brothers, his most-used games of his collection, which also includes the Wii Sports package. 

One gorgeous spring afternoon -- you know, one of those days where it seems almost criminal to be inside -- I asked Sammy if he’d like to walk to a park about a quarter mile away to play. His dad was on a business trip and his mom was laid up with a bad foot in a cast. 

“Can we take the car?” he asked. I told him, “No,” and explained the whole point of walking was to get out and enjoy the beautiful day. He decided he didn’t want to join me. I wondered who experienced more of a loss. 

A week later, I volunteered to take Sammy out for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon to give his parents a break and spend some one-on-one time with him. His mom and I brainstormed activities and decided lunch and bowling would be the ticket. 

That morning I pumped him up for the day’s activities and said, “Hey, we’re going to go bowling this afternoon.”

And without missing a beat, he said, “We don’t have to go anywhere. We can bowl on the Wii right here.” 

I had to laugh -- mind you, this kid just turned 7, and he had just floored me with that one seemingly innocent statement. 

 “Well, we’re going out into the real world instead,” I told him, while I also thought just to myself, “and give you a chance to unplug for a while.” 

I won’t get into how the bowling was a bit of a bust when his ball cracked after a handful of frames…and how we ended up in a Chuck E. Cheese playing video games, waiting like Pavlovian dogs for prize tickets to flow out of the machines. It made him happy and, admittedly, kept me a bit grounded about what many parents do with kids for an afternoon these days -- unfortunately.

Still, during any young child’s life, we need to encourage them to get outside more to enjoy those beautiful days and nudge them to be more active with walks to the park, hoping that someday being outdoors will take precedence over a picture on a screen -- or prize tickets at Chuck E. Cheese.

--Wendy Geister

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