Nature Valley launched an ad campaign in early July that showed a huge difference between the generations alive today.
They asked 3 generations the same question: “When you were little, what did you do for fun?”
From the grandparents and parents you heard answers like berry-picking, growing watermelons, playing baseball, and building forts.
The children’s responses to the same question included video games, texting, sending email, and watching videos. Nature Valley didn’t stop there, though. They spread the gap even wider when asking the kids how long each day they spent on their electronics. They responded with at least 3 to 5 hours everyday and one little girl aged around 6 said she would “die” without her tablet, their tagline following: “Nature has always been a part of childhood.”
What changed from one generation to the next?
There are currently 6 living generations today:
- The Greatest Generation (1901-1926)
- Silents (1927-1945)
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
- Generation X (1965-1980)
- Generation Y/Millennial (1981-2000)
- Generation Z/Boomlets (after 2001)
Technology was introduced during Generation X and Generations Y and Z grew up not remembering a time without certain technologies. The technological revolution that brought along the first mac computers to cell phones to smartphones happened all within the short span of 42 years. Yet, already it seems that technology is changing the habits and lifestyle of future generations. It is a scary thought to think that for so many years prior to this revolution, generations grew up in nature and sent this tradition down, yet in less than a lifespan of the average human being, this healthy and natural way of being has virtually gone out the window (quite literally).
The Greatest Generation, Silents, Baby Boomers, and Generation X are the only generations alive today who remember a world without computers and cell phones. They are the ones who spent a majority of their childhood outdoors and did not have all the conveniences of life as we have them today (some of The Greatest Generation grew up without electricity, refrigerators, or air conditioning). In the 1950s the obesity rate in America was at 9%, but about 50 years later, after the technological revolution, this rate tripled to 33% and in 2006, not a single state reported obesity rates below 10%. An estimated 1 in 3 children are overweight in America today. Is this just a coincidence that as soon as generations starting becoming addicted to technology, obesity rates skyrocketed? While there are more factors to obesity than exercise (diet is also a huge factor), it seems as though children who spend up to 5 hours a day playing video games or texting on their cell phones are not prioritizing time outside of the house. Today, the typical child spends an average of 30 minutes outside per day.
Being outdoors has been proven to be beneficial for children’s body, mind, and spirit. Along with exercise building strong bodies, being outside in the sunlight provides essential vitamin D, which helps protect against future health issues with heart disease, bone problems, diabetes, and more. It can also be said that being outside can improve distance vision and help prevent nearsightedness (which is also a common issue today). Some studies have found that being in an environmental setting can extensively improve symptoms of ADHD, while an outdoor-style education can increase test scores and critical thinking skills. Another study shows that children’s stress levels decrease immediately when they see nature and playtime outside reduces the anxiety that come from the fast-paced, 24/7 world that technology provides.
Not only does technology steal most of the time children spend outside in nature, but there are a number of studies today that show other negative implications of continuously using electronic devices.
Addiction to some forms of technology are real medical conditions. One boy, around 6 years old, answered that sometimes he forgets that he has a family–parents, a sister, a dog–because he is so immersed in the virtual life of his video game. Nomophobia–the fear of being separated from your cell phone–is also a real term that many people feel everyday. Addiction to technology, just as addiction to anything, is considered a psychological disorder that is treatable. Addiction to video games, for example, is being treated as an “impulsive control disorder” along the same lines as compulsive gambling. Along with the side effects of any addiction such as depression or anxiety, addiction to technology also hinders social development.
Even more alarming studies today have claimed that certain technologies, such as cell phones, can physically cause harm to the body over time. Cell phones, while switched on, emit invisible electromagnetic radiation that is absorbed by the body. There has been much debate over a vast array of health effects of mobile radiation over the years including cancer, infertility, autism, learning disabilities, depression, hormonal imbalance, and more.
Currently in US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set a regulation for the specific absorption rate (SAR) of mobile radiation allowed to sell a cell phone in the marketplace. Today, phone companies are testing their SAR’s with a dummy designed after a 220 lb (100 kg), 6’2″ (1.88m) adult man. Clearly, this model doesn’t work well for children who may be a quarter of that size or less-in fact, Om Gandhi, a professor at the University of Utah, children absorb 10 times the amount of radiation that adults absorb. Even if the health effects associated with cell phone radiation haven’t been proven yet, it can’t be good to have your child constantly absorbing high amounts of electromagnetic radiation that is speculated to have these effects.
None of this is to say that you should unplug yourself or your children from technology entirely–some of it acts as a necessity in our society today. Without a computer and cell phone, almost all businesses would not be able to function. The important thing to take away from this information is to be cautious and healthy about the way you approach technology. Limiting time spent on electronic devices, making time to spend with your family outdoors, and remembering that we are just human beings, not robots controlled by technology, are important in leading a healthy lifestyle for you today future generations to come.