Parents, Tell Your Kids: Unplug and Get Out!
When doctors begin writing "outdoor activity" prescriptions, you know we have a problem connecting with nature. In the United States, children 8 to 18 years old spend an average of seven and a half hours a day indoors using electronic media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. So when the only exposure kids have to the great outdoors is what they see on TV and computer screens, some severe cases of "nature deficit disorder" can result.
With the launch of his website RecreatingWithKids.com, longtime outdoor industry veteran Eugene Buchanan hopes to help kids avoid trips to the nature doctor. The site includes news updates on outdoor programs, events and initiatives, reports on family-friendly destinations, and how-to guides for activities like biking, camping, paddling, and climbing. And it's full of inspiring tales of 12-year-olds climbing 50 peaks in 50 days and 7-year-olds becoming Junior Rangers at National Parks.
"Hopefully it will help encourage families to participate in outdoor activities," Buchanan said. "That's the future of the entire outdoor industry."
And the future of healthy generations. A growing disconnect with nature has been linked to physical and mental health problems including obesity, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and depression (to name a few). "Sadly, fewer youth are heading outdoors each year," said Christine Fanning of the Outdoor Foundation, which found that youth participation in outdoor recreation has dropped nearly 17 percent in the last three years. "Reconnecting youth with the outdoors is critical to the health of future generations and our natural landscapes."
RecreatingWithKids.com comes in the tide of Buchanan's recent award-winning book, Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids, and coincides with other initiatives to encourage families to reconnect with nature, including the launch of President Obama's Childhood Obesity Task Force and America's Great Outdoor Initiative.