Plug in to Unplug

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The days of parents saying “just go outside and play” sadly are slipping away. Often kids and parents don’t feel confident enough in the outdoors and are afraid to explore. Instead kids spend an average of 7.5 hours per day, that’s over 50 hours per week, with technology. A child is 6 times more likely to play a video game than riding a bike. With that much time spent with technology kids have developed a comfortable relationship with their TVs, computers, cell phones, IPods and tablet devices.

So why not take the technology outside? If technology and handheld devices are like a warm security blanket that gives a child the confidence to try something new; then by all means use that tool! Today there are many wonderful Apps that are designed to help kids explore in nature. The National Environmental Education Foundation has released a document fully loaded with great tips on how to successfully integrate technology into exploring nature. It’s important to make the technology part of the experience and not the experience itself. So instead of letting a child play Angry Birds on a smartphone while the parents go birding- a child can use a smartphone to bird with them. There are many apps out there that are designed for various ages and developmental levels of children that teach kids about bugs, birds, geocaching, plants, constellations and exploration. Perhaps in the near future parents will be overheard saying, “take my smartphone and go outside and play.” However parents might want to make sure they install a phone locator app because odds are after the kids get outside, they might just discover they don’t need their security blanket after all.