Remember the days when you were five, playing in the dirt to find worms and caterpillars, only to scream when they crawled towards you? What about the times you would run around and catch butterflies and stare at them through the glass as if they were your best friends. What about the times you would catch dragonflies and tie strings around them? Remember when freeze tag was thing? Those were the days. Nowadays, children aren’t seen out of the house unless they in the car next to you in traffic. Can we blame this all on the evolution of technology?
According to the Center for Disease Control, about 14 percent of youth report inactivity and as they grow older, participation in any physical activity becomes less and less. What factors in these modern times are affecting playtime? Stephen Faison, assistant professor of philosophy in the College of Social Sciences, Art and Humanities, had a few ideas.
“One way to look at it is to ask ourselves, what’s outside and what’s inside?” Faison said. “Because it may be that because of things outside, they don’t play outside or are they not outside because they are drawn to things inside.”
One factor he mentioned might be the way cities planned their layouts, without considering children playing outside as a part of the plan. It used to be that sidewalks were wide and front yards were huge, with enough room to pretend to be Super girl without worrying about running into a car. These days, some streets don’t even have sidewalks.
“Part of it is just the physical layout is not conducive to playing,” Faison said. “The priority is the automobile not the person on foot.”
Most people lived in a neighborhood where you could walk down the street to the park to meet up with your friends and get as much play time in before the streetlights came on.
“Right outside the house, there’s no place to play and now there’s no place within walking distance that the children can go to by themselves,” Faison said.
However, physical layout is just one factor. In this day and change, it’s dangerous to walk around alone on the street.
Now you have to worry about whether your child could get kidnapped, raped, molested, abused or shot. Parents are too afraid to let their kids out of their sight, let alone walking around the corner by themselves to play where they can’t see them.
Emmauella Obas, mother of two from Fort Lauderdale, would never let her children play outside without supervision.
“Parents are afraid to expose their children,” Obas said. “If you talk to any other parent, they will tell you the same thing.”
Milan Joseph, a sophomore pre-occupational therapy student at Florida A&M University, blames violence.
“It’s because people don’t really trust everyone out there anymore because of all the stuff that’s been happening,” Joseph said.
Protecting your children may also coincide with the distraction of technology as a form of entertainment.
However, some parents are aware that there are negative effects of their children not playing outside. Obas mentions the issue of increased obesity, children having no social interaction skills or any knowledge about nature.
“Without exploration, children lose out on building skills of innovation and imagination,” said Obas.
The above factors may not be the only reasons children don’t play outside anymore. There are various factors that can range depending on where you live and your cultural values, but what will become of the children when they are older?
Outside no one is staring into the sky and seeing fluffy pirates on cotton ships. No one is collecting caterpillars to watch them turn into butterflies. Kids are not making new friends and chasing each other for hours. Marco polo, hide and seek and freeze tag has faded. Hopefully one day, in the midst of technology and despite the violence, kids will get back to what’s important about being a child. Laughing and playing and enjoying their innocence.