Believe it or not we spend more time in our vehicles than we do outside. I have friends who live in or around the city and their idea of getting some nature is to go down to the park and have their kids play on the swings for a half hour while the parents play on their phones. A friend came up to our house to visit from the city a year ago and I took her young son and my five year old daughter to the woods. This boy walked about twenty feet and tripped over a log because he didn’t know to look at the ground for obstacles. He was so used to walking on manicured lawns and paths it never occurred to him that there might be something in the way!
Kids between the ages of five and sixteen spend an average of six and a half hours per day in front of a screen, which is terrible; however, I do believe the kind of screen time spent is important. I assume that most kids spend their time watching videos, playing games, and engaging on social media. This kind of screen time is passive and they are just sitting there slowly turning into a vegetable. If they are producing something on the other hand, like writing a blog post, then I think the screen time isn’t as bad. Yes, they’re not physically active; however, if they are producing some kind of content then they are stretching their minds and growing in that regard.
Physically, on the other hand, this can’t be good for them. I have a seven year old boy who would gladly veg in front of his Kindle playing games all day if we let him. I also have a five year old girl who would sit in front of the TV watching Netflix and eating chips if we gave her the thumbs up, but we don’t. My wife regularly throws the kids outside and makes them play out there. The funny thing about kids though is that once they’re outside playing they don’t want to come in.
There’s nothing wrong with technology per se, it’s only when we allow it to consume our lives that it becomes an issue. From the first moment we get up to the time we go to bed, we are stuck to some kind of screen. I’m not saying I don’t, but we do try to have a little balance in our lives. My wife hates the amount of time the kids spend in front of their devices. As such, we will force them to play outside.
We live on a nice piece of land in Maine where there’s plenty of forest and open space. My son learned to ride a bike when he was three, got his first motorcycle when he turned five, a 125 cc four-wheeler when he turned seven and drives them like pro. My daughter loves to create crafts and I set aside time for her and I sit down where she will create things while I draw. I have a tipi and wilderness camp where we spend a lot of time and the wifi doesn’t reach. My boy can start a fire with a firesteel and can recite the Survival Rule of Threes.
I like to think my family has a good balance with learning the old ways, being outside, and today’s invasive technology. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, so I remember what it was like without a smart phone, computers, and when the only TV had antennas. Cartoons only played on Saturday and after a few hours of watching them my mom would boot us outside until lunch. We hung out with our friends in person and built dangerous bicycle jumps, climbed trees, and did other things that, by today’s standards, would certainly have got our parents in trouble for neglect.
But let’s face it, barring some kind of major SHTF Carrington event, our smart devices are here to stay and I don’t think that’s a bad thing; however, we do need to balance screen time with outdoor time. Kids need to get outside and play.
Location! Location! Location!
We used to live on a busy main road, which I absolutely hated, but when it was just Mrs. Jarhead and myself, we were willing to tolerate it because it was easy for us to jump in my truck and drive ten miles to the local hiking trails. As soon as we found out she was going to have a baby, we put that house on the market and moved as fast as we could. We did not want our kids being brought up near a dangerous, noisy road.
It was the best decision we ever made. We now live on a back road in Midcoast Maine with tons of woods surrounding us. It’s not like we lived in downtown Manhattan before the move – we actually moved less than ten miles, but the location we chose was much better suited to our lifestyle. People might say, “But Jarhead! You’ve never lived in the city! How can you make a comparison?”
Good question. Actually I used to be a consultant for a big company based out of St. Paul, Minnesota and for two and a half years I lived on airplanes, stayed in hotels, and drove rental cars all over the country five days a week. As a matter of fact, I spent the last two months traveling in NYC: Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. I’ve been to just about every major city this side of the Mississippi and a few in Canada. (I actually liked Toronto.)
So yes, I can make a strong comparison between the slow country life and fast paced, high stressed, city living. Listen City Dweller – I’m not telling you to move to the country, although I’ll bet you’d be a lot happier if you did. People in the cities are stuck in their high-rise caves, living on top of each other, stressed out of their minds at the high cost of living and lack of paycheck. They stay in these dark caverns venturing out only to work or to do other things inside. Few people actually have a chance to get back to nature and I find that very sad because they don’t realize the health benefits they are missing.
Ironically, it’s these same city people who say, “If TSHTF I’m going to bug-out to the wilderness and live there until it blows over.” Hmmm, not so much. Folks, if you’ve never spent any time in the wilderness and that’s your plan, I beg you to reconsider. If I had a choice to choose between a city dweller with a full pack and my son with a firesteel, I’d take my boy ever time. At least he knows how to start a fire using natural materials and to look for shelter! Surviving in the wilderness is extremely difficult even for people who’ve been trained.
Take your family camping. Take them on a long hike in the woods, wherever that might be. Let your kids know what it’s like to carry a backpack and walk for awhile. It’s ok for them to be a little uncomfortable. Give them responsibility to do things like gather kindling or firewood. Show them how to set up their tent. Allow them to help in the decision making for certain things.
My five year old loves coming out to the tipi with me because I’ll make her noodle soup. Not the most nutritious meal, but being outside climbing trees and running around is great for my kids and we do it several times a week. My son is old enough now to use a hatchet and loves the opportunity to swing it at dead trees to help with firewood.
Granted it’s a little more difficult in the winter, but we still do it. I’ll go out on a Saturday or Sunday and stay four or five hours and sometimes will even spend the night out there (yes – even in the winter). My kids come out to visit and when they’re tired from cutting and carrying wood, climbing trees and wrestling in the snow, they walk back to the house. It’s awesome!
If there aren’t any kids in your family take yourself outside. You’ll be happier and healthier for it. Being in nature has shown to bring positive health benefits, so if you’re feeling depressed, you might want to spend a few days in nature without electronics and see if that helps before running to the doctor for a prescription. But that’s another article! Questions? Comments? Sound off below!