At the very outset let me clarify that I am not going to ask you to step out in the burning Delhi Sun. Everyone deserves a roof and a long nap when the mercury goes north. The problem arises when we refuse to go outdoors, come hell or high water. In case you are wondering the five minute walk from the parking lot to the mall's entrance doesn't count as "outdoor".
This divorce between humanity and nature leads to a serious problem called Natural Deficit Disorder. It was first coined by Richard Louv in a book Lost Child in the Wood. Louv travelled around USA (rural and urban areas)for ten years and spoke to parents about their lifestyle. He came to the conclusion that parents have withdrawn children from outdoors. This fear of outdoors has led to many serious behavioural and psychological problems in the young generation.
If you are thinking that the 2001 financial breakdown didn't hit us (India) so hard; we might just miss this too then you are mistaken. We have every reason to be alarmed. The outdoor activity of kids between 6-15 continues to slide even as their endurance for Fifa and Tekken shows great improvement. The more engrossed they become in gadgets; the more they withdraw from the natural surroundings.
This sedentary lifestyle is as toxic as the Delhi air. Eyes are the first to take a hit from the constant exposure to digital (television, computer, laptop, mobile) screens. Subsequently, the lack of exercise leads to obesity. Social isolation and health problems tend to follow. Thick rimmed glasses don't go very well on young kids.
These health hazards cannot be undone with a wand or injections; they require a complete lifestyle shift. Conversely, the kids who play outside are less likely to be stressed out and more adaptable to life's unpredictable terms.
The problem is not with the children so much but their parenting style. Many parents off load their responsibility by handing their kids the latest and costliest gizmo in the market. They think they have performed their duty. Another set are too cautious to let their children out of sight.
These concerns are not entirely exaggerated. Children have a propensity to get hurt and make an awful lot of noise. What if they swallow mud, fall from swings or hurt themselves? But haven't all of us have gone through these falls and turned out all right. Our parents even managed to survive the biggest migration in the history of the world (India-Pakistan partition). Studies show that exposure to randomness of nature actually boost the immune system.
“Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while,” said the famous cartoonist Kin Hubbard
The solution is quite simple really. Take them to a park the next weekends instead of the next Yash Raj magnum opus. That alone would do them a world of good. Your child may be the next Steve Jobs and has every right to enjoy the best of technology, but not at the cost of his/her well being.
The best brains in the world understand the need to getaway. In recent years, there has been a spurt of hotels that seize all gadgets on arrival thereby allowing to guests to wander aimlessly. When we disconnect from the world, we are able to connect with ourselves. It makes us more aware, calm and happy. Try it!!
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