Boys zipped down the street on their bikes, girls jumped rope or sat under a big shade tree playing with their dolls. The familiar tune of Yankee Doodle announced the arrival of the ice cream man and kids rushed to get their money for a delicious treat. Parents could set their clock by the daily arrival of this icon of days gone by.
These familiar scenes were common in most neighborhoods when I was a child. Little changed through the years my children were growing up. Memories of childhood summers are filled with exploring in the woods, making forts, and pretending to be various fictional characters.
Then one day about ten years ago, I felt like I was dropped into an unfamiliar world. I had a writing assignment to observe children at play and to write a profile on one child. My children were grown and I had moved from the old neighborhood, so I went in search of children at play. Where are the kids? I wondered as I drove through one area after another. The neighborhoods were silent and looked deserted. I felt something had died and I had not been aware of the sickness.
I decided to try another part of town, but still couldn't find any children. Finally, I headed to a small neighborhood park where I saw several youngsters under the age of eight years old. The parents were lined up on wooden benches, watching to be sure their child would not be the target of a predator. I felt like crying. Our world had changed and I was just becoming aware of the tremendous loss we had suffered. I went over to the lineup of parents, introduced myself, informed them of my intent, and asked permission to observe the children for a few moments. Even with that explanation, they were hesitant.
Children now have a substitute for exciting and healthy outdoor activities common to childhood in earlier times.
They are plugged into the world of computer games and often are electronic junkies. They click their way through a maze of dangerous situations and fast-moving objects that obliterate anything in their path. Children's skills in finding unlimited information on most topics via the computer can astound parents. However, a vital part of childhood is missing. Unless we unplug the computer and video games and provide more outdoor activity, our children will be robbed of experiences they can discover only through imaginative play. Computer and video games are leading to a new form of addiction for many young people.
There are no easy answers to this very complex issue of providing safe and enriching activities for our children. However, when we know an activity is leading to harmful consequences and robbing them of healthy interests, we should regroup and find other ways to keep our children engaged in learning and experiencing new things.
The Kaiser Family Foundation 2005 Executive Report entitled, "Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 Year Olds," revealed that kids' average weekly electronic media exposure is almost sixty hours. This activity may seem like a safer alternative than allowing children to play outdoors unsupervised. The freedom the children had thirty years ago may never return because of the many changes in our society. God can show parents and other caring adults better activities for children than keeping them plugged into a potentially harmful pastime.
Children's imaginations are still fertile ground for hours of creative play. Once childhood has passed, it is impossible to recapture the time spent.
Where is your child? It is not too late to unplug that cord.
By: Sarah James