Outdoors

Back in the middle of the previous century [and writing that makes me feel even older than I am] my parents were firm, possibly tyrannical if compared to the relaxed (and sometimes non-existent) parenting of families today. Television viewing [the only screen time then available] was essentially non-existent, and, outside of school hours, time spent on homework or athletics, and family events, during daylight hours and even twilight we were to be outside. By the time we were teenagers, the rules were somewhat modified to allow one other exemption from the “outside” requirement – work, either unpaid or paid.

Today, I seldom see children outside, even on weekends, and we live in an area that gets neither excessive heat nor cold. We had a foot of snow this past weekend, and the only one in the entire neighborhood who was sledding was our visiting granddaughter. I didn’t even see sled tracks or snowmen. I know there are children here. I see them every school day at the school bus stops, but playing outside? Almost never.

The new “indoor” life isn’t good for children, especially for their vision. A recent study showed that by junior high school, today 40% of U.S. children are near-sighted and need corrective lenses, up from 20% fifty years ago. That’s a doubling of nearsightedness in two generations. This isn’t a world-wide trend. It’s a U.S. trend.

According to 2017 Pentagon data, 71% of Americans in the 17-24 age group are not qualified to join the military primarily because of one of three reasons: (1) poor health [mainly obesity]; (2) lack of physical fitness; (3) lack of reading skills.

Kids don’t play outside as much anymore, and according to the researchers behind the study, that lack of outdoor activity, combined with excessive screen time, is the major cause of the increase in near-sightedness.

Certainly, one reason why many parents don’t let their children play outside is fear, fear of violence, kidnapping, and other mayhem, but the U.S. is actually far safer now for children[except possibly in inner city areas] than it was in the middle of the last century.

No matter what anyone claims, most screen time doesn’t teach reading and comprehension skills, and it reduces physical fitness… and excessive screen time certainly degrades vision.

All of which are a major reason why today’s children are looking at shorter and unhealthier lives.

5 thoughts on “Outdoors”

  1. Dave says:

    I totally agree. Growing up in Canada, we were always outside, throwing baseballs around, tobogganing (often on flattened out cardboard boxes), riding our bikes, swimming, etc. Inside was for meals, sleeping and a little evening TV, or playing card games with our parents. I loved it. Children today who don’t do these things really miss out on many of the joys of childhood, IMHO.

  2. Hanneke says:

    I’ve been told that kids need about 2 hours a day of outdoor-time, wheretheir eyes can focus on distance, to avoid the eyeball changing shape, which causes nearsightedness.
    Apparently this is triggered by the difference in how sharp the eyes see objects in the center of one’s field of vision and at the edges. When you look around you outside, the things in front of you will generally be about as far away as the stuff to the sides, at least as far as the accomodation range of the eyes are concerned, so things in your peripheral vision would be equally sharply defined as those in your central field of vision. That tells the eyes they are developing correctly.

    When you’re indoors reading and focussing close by, your central vision is sharp but your peripheral vision goes hazy. That tells the eyes they need to change their shape (grow more elongated, IIRC), to try and get that peripheral vision into focus as well.
    Two hours of equal sharpness all around per day is enough to avoid triggering that effect – the rest of the time you can do close-focus work and stare at a screen until the walls go blurry without it causing a problem.

  3. RRCRea says:

    I lived between a fairly affluent area and a low income housing area in a city in Wisconsin. You never ever saw a child outside in the affluent area, though there was evidence of their presence in the form of (unused) swingsets, abandoned high end toys, etc. On the lower income side, the children were out and about all the time. Having fun. Mixed age groups. Cutting through our yard. Etc.

    Now we live in Florida and the kids in the neighborhood are out and about all the time. They ride their bikes all year long, which is definitely a benefit of the weather, but one they use.

  4. Grey says:

    I blame my impressively bad nearsightedness on reading LEM novels under my blanket with a flashlight long after my parents had told me to hit the sack…

  5. Dave says:

    Grey, that is a perfectly valid reason for being nearsighted. I did the same thing with Heinlein novels back when I was a mere lad.

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