The world has changed quite a bit in recent years; some say it’s changed more over the last few decades than it probably ever has. Technologically speaking that it. Millions of years of lumbering dinosaurs and slowly evolving amoebas, various cold snaps and the dawning of multiple civilizations have all been overtaken by a new era: The Age Of Electronics.
It certainly seems that most things we use today come on a phone the size of your fingernail, as an app through an online store or on a touch screen gizmo that can even make you a cup of tea. They all call for some sort of computerised what-ya-ma-call-it or wireless thingy-ma-jig and require plugging in, charging up and regular (often badly timed) updates.
So what does life in a world of advanced technology actually mean? Aside, that is, from needing to commit to memory a list of passwords as long as your arm. Well, if you break it down, it really means relying on a whole host of different computers to help get us through each day: ipods that rouse us, sat navs that lead us, laptops that inform us, phones that connect us, TVs that entertain us, ipads that amuse us, game stations that mesmerize us and microwaves that cook for us. Wow, what an awful lot of microchips there are controlling our lives.
Yes, that’s right, controlling. Because let’s be honest, the moment any one of these life saving machines stops doing what it should, we all go into an immediate state of melt down and come out in hives. And then, if we happen to be driving at the time, proceed to get very badly lost.
So where might it all end? Possibly with a generation of pale, socially inept kids with short pudgy legs, bad eyesight, tiny lungs and enlarged thumbs. Kids who only communicate with ‘friends’ they don’t know, haven’t a clue how to hold a pen, pick up a book, boil an egg or find their way out of a paper bag. And let’s not forget play. Because it goes without saying kids in the future won’t have a clue how to do that without the aid of an instruction manual.
A recent article in the Daily Mail summed it up in one heading: ‘1 in 3 children has never climbed a tree.’
Based on research carried out by Play England and antiseptic brand Savlon, the worrying results showed that a staggering 60% of youngsters would rather watch television or play computer games than venture outdoors. A 1/3 of children (aged 6-15) have never climbed a tree, a 1/4 have never rolled down a hill, 1 in 10 children cannot ride a bicycle and a 1/3 have no idea how to play hopscotch or build a den. Almost 1/2 of those children asked have never even made a daisy chain. And let’s be honest, 1/2 of those again probably don’t even know what a daisy is.
So what or who is to blame for a decline in the sort of outdoor fun that involves rough, tumble and dirty knees? Is it simply a case of lazy children giving in to the lure of the computer screen, or is it down to the lifestyle of their perpetually busy (and often overweight) parents, who admit they rarely played with their children or took them to the park?
According to Catherine Prisk, a former teacher and director of campaign group Play England, if children miss out on such vital childhood experiences as playing outside, getting muddy and climbing a tree, they may well be heading towards a life as a somewhat dysfunctional adult.
‘Children are likely to be more physically active when they play outside and are more likely to play with other children.
‘This is essential for their emotional and physical health, well-being and happiness and is also important for their future development, to build vital life and social skills.
She added: ‘When children learn to climb a tree they are learning to overcome a physical challenge and it will stand them in good stead for overcoming other challenges in life, such as learning to read.’
To a generation of parents brought up on fresh air, frozen noses and imagination, the results of this research are a disturbing wake up call to the sedentary lifestyles that we are allowing our children to lead. For while many children today may well opt for a sofa over a swing, it is not down to them to make the change, but the responsibility of their parents to unplug the computers, hide the remotes and, if necessary, confiscate everything in the house that beeps.