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Chad Love: The Zombie Plague

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October 28, 2009

Chad Love: The Zombie Plague

By Chad Love

Sometimes you read something that - to be perfectly honest - leaves you feeling hopeless and doomed. Something so depressing it makes you want to throw up your hands, shout "to hell with it all!" and head straight to the nearest bar. Something like this, from the LA Times.
 
The latest figures from Nielsen have children's TV usage at an eight-year high. Children's health advocates warn of adverse effects.
 
More than an entire day -- that's how long children sit in front of the television in an average week, according to new findings released Monday by Nielsen.

The amount of television usage by children reached an eight-year high, with kids ages 2 to 5 watching the screen for more than 32 hours a week on average and those ages 6 to 11 watching more than 28 hours. The analysis, based on the fourth quarter of 2008, measured children's consumption of live and recorded TV, as well as VCR and game console usage.

"They're using all the technology available in their households," said Patricia McDonough, Nielsen's senior vice president of insights, analysis and policy. "They're using the DVD, they're on the Internet. They're not giving up any media -- they're just picking up more."
 
While this has obvious implications for the future of hunting and fishing, it also goes beyond that and straight to the core of our fundamental appreciation for nature itself. No one is born a hunter, an angler or a hiker. We all start life as a blank slate and what gets etched on that slate in our early childhood shapes who we will eventually become. You, I and everyone else who enjoys the outdoors, be they a hunter, an angler, a hiker, a birder or whatever, didn't get that way by mainlining 32 hours of high-definition methadone: we got that way by crawling around in the dirt catching bugs, climbing trees, building forts in the back yard and stomping around in creeks. You know, being kids. That childlike wonder, the curiosity, imagination and self-guided exploration of your surroundings. That's the base from which everything else rises. Lose that - as we most assuredly are - and you've lost an entire generation of children. And for what? So they can grow up to be the same mindless, self-absorbed zombie consumers their parents obviously are?
 
Seriously, anyone who lets their small child watch 32 hours of television, video games and Internet a week should be smacked in the head with a rolled-up copy of Richard Louv's "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder."
 
American parents, WTF are you thinking? Put down your go*****ed cellphone, get your fat a***s off Facebook, turn off the TV and pay some attention to your kids. Take them outside, let them get dirty. Let them think and explore for themselves without the help of corporate-sponsored storyline.
 
Good gawd, didn't this used to be called common sense?

Comments (32)

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

the man of the future will say he didnt pick up hunting because he never had any "play dates" with anyone who hunted.

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from ckRich wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Well said Chad. I know too many parents that are my age(mid-20's) that are just plain LAZY. Heaven forbid they have to do actual parenting rather than plug in another DVD for their kid. Whenever I was young and complained of boredom I was promptly "thrown" outside. This immediately taught me two things: 1. How to bounce properly on hard ground(which came in handy later when hunting out of tree stands); 2. There is ALWAYS something to do outside. ALWAYS

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Well said. My kids someday will be limited to about a fourth of that time per week with no limit on outside time. Take the kid hunting and fishing for pete's sake.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from sgaredneck wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Hate to say this, but all those video games, cel phones made for texting, all the DVD's, all the whatever - is electronic babysitting - for kids and grownups. Everybody is at overload and it is so much easier to put on a DVD and have the kids watch it than walk in the woods, or go fishing, or canoeing, or______________(fill in outdoor activity here).

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I'm working from home, so I have the tv on 24 hour news, I have both computers working and the radio on in the bedroom, So what can I say? I will see if my neighbor and his kids will go fishing after school today. When I was a kid it was so easy to off in the woulds messing around a stream, just outside in air.Today it seems like it takes an act of congress to see children outside.Someone complained the other day that the kids next door to her were playing ball in the street with their mom. I could not believe the complaint. I was happy to see them outside.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Should have been "so easy to go off in the woods.." This story made me so upset, We will end up with a generation cave dwellers, unable and unwilling survive an hour without structured activity unless they are "plugged in"

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from seadog wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

In the cities, most of the adults have already lost touch with the outdoors. I've had grownups tell me they didn't know there were deer and turkey in Florida--lived here all their lives and never saw one.
South Georgia is right--it's just too easy to put in the Barney tape (or whatever) on and plop the kids in front of the TV. We did that a little when my kids were small, but somehow we found time to turn it off & run em out of the house. That gets easier when they get old enough that you don't have to watch them every minute. Like the rest of you guys are saying--get the kids out in the woods, or fishing, or just throw em out of the house. If we do our part, at least the entire next generation won't be total zombies.

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from mitchw wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I don't know if I qualify as the guilty parent here or the innocent one. I purposely don't have tv or cable at my house because I wasted a whole lot of my youth in front of the boob-tube. If it's daylight outside, as soon as we get thru with breakfast, we are usually gearing up to go work on a project outside, or fish, or bird hunt, and more recently, deer hunt. However, when it gets dark at 6:30, or next week, when it's pitch black at 5:45, there's only so many board games to play and toys to play with. So we'll watch a movie together. And if you add up 1.5 hours of movie per day, that comes in a 10.5 hours a week of tv. I don't feel nearly as bad with him watching Cars or Finding Nemo (or Monster Bucks 9) as I would if he were watching the advertising segment that is called childrens television. Honestly, what's the solution here? Those of us that live in Northern Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and parts of Wisconsin and Michigan are socked in with a winter that starts in mid-November and doesn't go away until the beginning of April. Seriously, how much can you do outside with a 1,2,3 or even 4-year old when it's 30 below air temp and not be risking their life and limb?

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

My eldest son may watch 24+ hours of tube per week. It's mostly documentaries on DVD about nature. Not as good as the real thing, of course, but herein lies the conundrum:

1) Most of us only can get away on weekends. Really, 1 weekend day. My sone doesn't spend the weekends on the tube he spends it playing outside, or visiting friends, or with me working or, some fall weekends, hunting. There's very little *structurally* about the way the economy is set up that I can do to change the situation, because we live in a city. Natcherly, if I lived where I want to live, we could go fishing every evening, walking through a deer filled forest or whatever every day, and be the consummate ubernaturalist 21st century renaissence doods. But we can't.

Another thing you have to remember is that with the Californication of America, the ideal housing development has a jillion 2,500 square foot houses that occupy virtually the entirety of the lots on which they're located. Dense packing has obsoleted the back yard, much less the front one. To fight that, we (my wif and I) chose a 50 year old 1500 sf house with room to play near a couple of parks. But urban parks ain't nature. Not by a long shot.

So, until I land that dream job that pays me a couple standard deviations above the median US salary to live in some rural utopia where I can sing "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" every day in a loud voice without having the neighbors so close by that they roll their eyes and send their son's Low Rider Sound Machine to park in front of my house and rattle my windows with subacoustic bass tones, I'm pretty much stuck with what I've got. And I'll bet lots of other Americans are in the same spot.

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from longboard wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I can remember a time when I was a kid and t.v. made you want to go out and be Davey Crocket, Daniel Boon, and
Kit Carson.
Things have changed but kid's have not. Take a heathy Boy or Girl to the beach and dig up some sand crabs, or catch some Blue Belly lizards and they will want to go back.
Lazy is the killer for outdoor fun.
Longboard

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from mitchw wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Oh, I forgot to put in that my son is 5 years, 2 monthes old, and is able to communicate to me now that his left foot is starting to freeze solid, which makes the outdoor pursuits a whole lot more enjoyable. :-)

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from chadlove wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Mike, I know what you're saying, and your son's television habits sound a lot like my son's: nature and science documentaries, history channel fare and Survivorman.

Really, I'm not a raving Luddite who's an advocate of "shoot your television, your computer and every other modern convenience." I mean, hell, I make my living on the computer and I even have a Facebook account...

But we seem to have lost the concept of all things in moderation, and I truly believe there are a shockingly large number of parents out there who have completely abrogated any meaningful parental involvement to the technological crack-peddlars that target our children literally from birth.

You're right, the unavoidable economic and cultural pressures of modern life mean we can't all be Swiss Family Robinson, lord knows I'm not, but we can at least do what we can to mitigate those corrosive influences.

You obviously are, but I think there are a helluva lot of parents out there who aren't.

Just ask any veteran public-school teacher about the striking changes in their students over the past 10-15 years...

And it's interesting that you mention the physical characteristics of the typical modern American subdivision and the very real and deliberate barriers they pose to kids being kids. Louv devotes a lot of time to that very subject in his book.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I'll have to check out that book then!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from idahooutdoors wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Easier to program them and mold them when they are brought up by the box...nothing wrong with a little tv, but outside and hands on is where kids really learn the ways of the world in a positive way...family structures are gone, and multi-media is the surrogate parent these days...

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from salmonquest wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I heard a comedian comment on something similar the other day. He was talking about his parents "kicking him outside" and being gone for 12-18 hours without anyone looking for him. He's right though it doesn't seem practical anymore. My kids are under 4 and i hope to instill a love of the outdoors and take them out a lot but when you are juggling three and making dinner, and cleaning up and it gets dark early? they usually do end up watching a bit of TV. I agree with Mitch

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from jjas wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Most parents I know are too "busy" to take their kids outside, thus many kids stay inside all the time.

So what do we end up with? Fat parents, fat kids and a couple of generations that will die of obesity, heart disease and diabetes before they ever reach retirement age.

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from seadog wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

When I was about 10, I would leave the house early in the morning on a bicycle with a fishing pole and no shoes. I wouldn't get home and my parents couldn't know where I was until dinner--no problem unless I was late for dinner. After dinner, right out the door again to play with the neighborhood kids until it was too dark to see. Now, my wife gets upset if our kids don't answer the cell phone by the third ring. It's a different world.

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from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Modern life is.............
well pretty fantastic actually, but WTF, why would anyone want to bring their kids up to be learning disabled? Lets call it what it is; learning CAN ONLY EVER BE a response to new and unexpected inputs. School is about reciting in a way that matches the examiners expectations, TV is the illusion of choice.

Self-guided discovery is the way to stimulate, not just the desire to learn, but the ability to learn.

'The cure for boredom is curiosity, there is no known cure for curiosity' Mrs Parker

SBW

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from Ruckweiler wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Take my kids fishing and shooting. Have them turn off the mindless media and go outside. When I was a teacher a few years ago, my students told me of friends who went home after school and spent 6-8 hours on the computer playing games. Unfortunately, we'll pay a dear price as a society because of lazy parents.

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from thuroy wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

setting in front of the computer can be just as bad. My parents had a rule that we couldn't watch T.V. until 7 on weekdays. We could play outside or do are homework, but we spent most of our time outside. As a teacher I sometimes assign as homework for kids to spend a at least a half hour playing outside.

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from shane wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Louv's book might be the most important piece in recent memory, but no one knows it. I think we might be screwed on this one.

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from Big O wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

The thing that gets me(and you all forgot to mention).
CHILD-HOOD OBIESITY !(?).
The parents want/do this to there kids, then want to sue fast food corps, etc. and thak them on Maury and say "pity me/my kid(s) because they are FAT !
Why they ask. BECAUSE YOU ARE A MORON ! ! !

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from Big O wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Sorry jjas, missed your blog. To MAD at "these" "parents"(loosely used definition)

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from bluecollarkid wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Ha! You boys ain't seen nothing yet. My wife is Japanese (as in, from Japan not Jap-American) and as a young girl/woman she was allowed .5 hrs of TV per day. No video games. She left for school at 6am, came home at 10p, had homework and chores to do. (If you are wondering what she was doing all day she had regular school then cram school at night.) When she had time off, she went outside and played - and Japan is a very urbanized country (however, I must admit that Japanese cities seems infinitely safer than our cities). Still only allowed .5 hrs of tv per day. Despite her urban upbringing she still has an immense appreciation for nature because her family/instructors introduced her to it and kept the connection alive. That component is definitely missing in today's mainstream modern society.

Me, I had nintendo and watched a bit more tv but my mom could only stand the nintendo music so long (about 1 hr) then she threw us out to play.

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from ranger2 wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Outstanding post folks. I have taken considerable interest in this topic, being trained in P.E. and health education and outdoor recreation. This is certainly one of the greatest changes in our culture in recent times, as well as one of the biggest challenges: how to get kids outdoors and away from the media frenzy. There are more barriers to that now than ever. If parents and sportsmen want to give the legacy of nature to their kids, it will have to be done deliberately.
On a personal note, I do not make that great a living, but I live in a 300 acre wooded park where my kids are free to experience nature the way it should be- hands on. I also do not have TV reception of any kind, and only allow the kids to watch one or two videos a week. NO video games ever, and internet is limited to PBS kids once every blue moon for now. I have far fewer structural barriers than most folks do, but I encourage people to get creative and give their kids what they can.

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from RJ Arena wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

report, we didn't catch any thing worth keeping but a good time! the kids got good and dirty too! Bonus!!!

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from mjvande wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Last Child in the Woods ––
Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
by Richard Louv
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
November 16, 2006

In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building "forts", farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what's to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though ("conveniently") never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, "Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!", at http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3.

It should also be obvious (but apparently isn't) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how we learn to treat it. Remember, children don't learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building "forts", mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

On page 144 Louv quotes Rasheed Salahuddin: "Nature has been taken over by thugs who care absolutely nothing about it. We need to take nature back." Then he titles his next chapter "Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?" Where indeed? While fishing may bring one into contact with natural beauty, that message can be eclipsed by the more salient one that the fish exist to pleasure and feed humans (even if we release them after we catch them). (My fishing career was also short-lived, perhaps because I spent most of the time either waiting for fish that never came, or untangling fishing line.) Mountain bikers claim that they are "nature-lovers" and are "just hikers on wheels". But if you watch one of their helmet-camera videos, it is easy to see that 99.44% of their attention must be devoted to controlling their bike, or they will crash. Children initiated into mountain biking may learn to identify a plant or two, but by far the strongest message they will receive is that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It's not!

On page 184 Louv recommends that kids carry cell phones. First of all, cell phones transmit on essentially the same frequency as a microwave oven, and are therefore hazardous to one's health –- especially for children, whose skulls are still relatively thin. Second, there is nothing that will spoil one's experience of nature faster than something that reminds one of the city and the "civilized" world. The last thing one wants while enjoying nature is to be reminded of the world outside. Nothing will ruin a hike or a picnic faster than hearing a radio or the ring of a cell phone, or seeing a headset, cell phone, or mountain bike. I've been enjoying nature for over 60 years, and can't remember a single time when I felt a need for any of these items.

It's clear that we humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife, if they, and hence we, are to survive. But it is repugnant and arguably inhumane to restrict human access to nature. Therefore, we need to practice minimal-impact recreation (i.e., hiking only), and leave our technology (if we need it at all!) at home. In other words, we need to decrease the quantity of contact with nature, and increase the quality.

References:

Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier -- An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods -- Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Reed, Sarah E. and Adina M. Merenlender, "Quiet, Nonconsumptive Recreation Reduces Protected Area Effectiveness". Conservation Letters, 2008, 1–9.

Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J., http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande, especially http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/ecocity3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/sc8, and http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/goodall.

Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

"The Wildlands Project", Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

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from Jerry A. wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I talk about this topic with friends all the time. When I grew up in the 70's and 80's, I very rarely watched television when the weather was nice. My friends and I were riding our bikes or playing wiffle ball, indian ball (sorry for the politically incorrect name,) foorball with a nerf, innumerable games of tag, etc. As Seadog said, I would leave the house in the morning and not be home until dinner, then back out until dark. Even then we would be in the yard, catching lighning bugs or something. All this in the suburbs of St. Louis.

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from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I just spent the last four days in the woods hunting and being away from the sounds in a neighborhood. I still couldn't escape cars driving down the road or some other modern luxuries but still being part of an ecosystem in your treestand is something everyone needs to feel once in there lifetime to sit and ponder lifes questions or think nothing at all it cleanses the soul. as fred bear once said. "if some of our teenage thrill seekers really want to go out and get themselves and thrill let them go up to the yukon or the northwest for grizzly bear, polar bear or brown bear. It will cleanse the soul." if all us kids could do that in a small version in the neighborhood woods and let your mind wander it would change everything.

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from VTDEER wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I have read the book that was mentioned (Richard Louv's "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.") It's an interesting read, also a scary one. I recommend it to everyone.

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from fliphuntr14 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

i lived about an hour away from where i live now in green bay wisconsin... we came up here every weekend from the time i was 4 until i was 15 and we moved up here. (im 19 now) i think it was the best thing my parents could of done instead of running around an area with little for kids 2 do in the summer i now fish or hunt just about every week. not to mention all the other things i can do at the lake down the road from my house and all the public land and trials about a quarter mile from my house. i think trial cameras would be a great addition to the class room i always liked and looked for opportunities in school to use my knowledge of the outdoors.

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from losername2of2 wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

I'm 16 years old and I spend very little free time in doors. I love Fishing and hunting. Honestly I'd rather be standing frostbitten and smelling like steelhead in the Cattaraugus than watching tv. I even have my own fishing blog www.troutfishingny.blogspot.com

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

My eldest son may watch 24+ hours of tube per week. It's mostly documentaries on DVD about nature. Not as good as the real thing, of course, but herein lies the conundrum:

1) Most of us only can get away on weekends. Really, 1 weekend day. My sone doesn't spend the weekends on the tube he spends it playing outside, or visiting friends, or with me working or, some fall weekends, hunting. There's very little *structurally* about the way the economy is set up that I can do to change the situation, because we live in a city. Natcherly, if I lived where I want to live, we could go fishing every evening, walking through a deer filled forest or whatever every day, and be the consummate ubernaturalist 21st century renaissence doods. But we can't.

Another thing you have to remember is that with the Californication of America, the ideal housing development has a jillion 2,500 square foot houses that occupy virtually the entirety of the lots on which they're located. Dense packing has obsoleted the back yard, much less the front one. To fight that, we (my wif and I) chose a 50 year old 1500 sf house with room to play near a couple of parks. But urban parks ain't nature. Not by a long shot.

So, until I land that dream job that pays me a couple standard deviations above the median US salary to live in some rural utopia where I can sing "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" every day in a loud voice without having the neighbors so close by that they roll their eyes and send their son's Low Rider Sound Machine to park in front of my house and rattle my windows with subacoustic bass tones, I'm pretty much stuck with what I've got. And I'll bet lots of other Americans are in the same spot.

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

the man of the future will say he didnt pick up hunting because he never had any "play dates" with anyone who hunted.

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from ckRich wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Well said Chad. I know too many parents that are my age(mid-20's) that are just plain LAZY. Heaven forbid they have to do actual parenting rather than plug in another DVD for their kid. Whenever I was young and complained of boredom I was promptly "thrown" outside. This immediately taught me two things: 1. How to bounce properly on hard ground(which came in handy later when hunting out of tree stands); 2. There is ALWAYS something to do outside. ALWAYS

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from seadog wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

When I was about 10, I would leave the house early in the morning on a bicycle with a fishing pole and no shoes. I wouldn't get home and my parents couldn't know where I was until dinner--no problem unless I was late for dinner. After dinner, right out the door again to play with the neighborhood kids until it was too dark to see. Now, my wife gets upset if our kids don't answer the cell phone by the third ring. It's a different world.

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from fisherman wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Well said. My kids someday will be limited to about a fourth of that time per week with no limit on outside time. Take the kid hunting and fishing for pete's sake.

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from seadog wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

In the cities, most of the adults have already lost touch with the outdoors. I've had grownups tell me they didn't know there were deer and turkey in Florida--lived here all their lives and never saw one.
South Georgia is right--it's just too easy to put in the Barney tape (or whatever) on and plop the kids in front of the TV. We did that a little when my kids were small, but somehow we found time to turn it off & run em out of the house. That gets easier when they get old enough that you don't have to watch them every minute. Like the rest of you guys are saying--get the kids out in the woods, or fishing, or just throw em out of the house. If we do our part, at least the entire next generation won't be total zombies.

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from idahooutdoors wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Easier to program them and mold them when they are brought up by the box...nothing wrong with a little tv, but outside and hands on is where kids really learn the ways of the world in a positive way...family structures are gone, and multi-media is the surrogate parent these days...

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jerry A. wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I talk about this topic with friends all the time. When I grew up in the 70's and 80's, I very rarely watched television when the weather was nice. My friends and I were riding our bikes or playing wiffle ball, indian ball (sorry for the politically incorrect name,) foorball with a nerf, innumerable games of tag, etc. As Seadog said, I would leave the house in the morning and not be home until dinner, then back out until dark. Even then we would be in the yard, catching lighning bugs or something. All this in the suburbs of St. Louis.

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from sgaredneck wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Hate to say this, but all those video games, cel phones made for texting, all the DVD's, all the whatever - is electronic babysitting - for kids and grownups. Everybody is at overload and it is so much easier to put on a DVD and have the kids watch it than walk in the woods, or go fishing, or canoeing, or______________(fill in outdoor activity here).

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from RJ Arena wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Should have been "so easy to go off in the woods.." This story made me so upset, We will end up with a generation cave dwellers, unable and unwilling survive an hour without structured activity unless they are "plugged in"

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from mitchw wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I don't know if I qualify as the guilty parent here or the innocent one. I purposely don't have tv or cable at my house because I wasted a whole lot of my youth in front of the boob-tube. If it's daylight outside, as soon as we get thru with breakfast, we are usually gearing up to go work on a project outside, or fish, or bird hunt, and more recently, deer hunt. However, when it gets dark at 6:30, or next week, when it's pitch black at 5:45, there's only so many board games to play and toys to play with. So we'll watch a movie together. And if you add up 1.5 hours of movie per day, that comes in a 10.5 hours a week of tv. I don't feel nearly as bad with him watching Cars or Finding Nemo (or Monster Bucks 9) as I would if he were watching the advertising segment that is called childrens television. Honestly, what's the solution here? Those of us that live in Northern Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and parts of Wisconsin and Michigan are socked in with a winter that starts in mid-November and doesn't go away until the beginning of April. Seriously, how much can you do outside with a 1,2,3 or even 4-year old when it's 30 below air temp and not be risking their life and limb?

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from longboard wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I can remember a time when I was a kid and t.v. made you want to go out and be Davey Crocket, Daniel Boon, and
Kit Carson.
Things have changed but kid's have not. Take a heathy Boy or Girl to the beach and dig up some sand crabs, or catch some Blue Belly lizards and they will want to go back.
Lazy is the killer for outdoor fun.
Longboard

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I'll have to check out that book then!

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from salmonquest wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I heard a comedian comment on something similar the other day. He was talking about his parents "kicking him outside" and being gone for 12-18 hours without anyone looking for him. He's right though it doesn't seem practical anymore. My kids are under 4 and i hope to instill a love of the outdoors and take them out a lot but when you are juggling three and making dinner, and cleaning up and it gets dark early? they usually do end up watching a bit of TV. I agree with Mitch

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from jjas wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Most parents I know are too "busy" to take their kids outside, thus many kids stay inside all the time.

So what do we end up with? Fat parents, fat kids and a couple of generations that will die of obesity, heart disease and diabetes before they ever reach retirement age.

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from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Modern life is.............
well pretty fantastic actually, but WTF, why would anyone want to bring their kids up to be learning disabled? Lets call it what it is; learning CAN ONLY EVER BE a response to new and unexpected inputs. School is about reciting in a way that matches the examiners expectations, TV is the illusion of choice.

Self-guided discovery is the way to stimulate, not just the desire to learn, but the ability to learn.

'The cure for boredom is curiosity, there is no known cure for curiosity' Mrs Parker

SBW

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from bluecollarkid wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Ha! You boys ain't seen nothing yet. My wife is Japanese (as in, from Japan not Jap-American) and as a young girl/woman she was allowed .5 hrs of TV per day. No video games. She left for school at 6am, came home at 10p, had homework and chores to do. (If you are wondering what she was doing all day she had regular school then cram school at night.) When she had time off, she went outside and played - and Japan is a very urbanized country (however, I must admit that Japanese cities seems infinitely safer than our cities). Still only allowed .5 hrs of tv per day. Despite her urban upbringing she still has an immense appreciation for nature because her family/instructors introduced her to it and kept the connection alive. That component is definitely missing in today's mainstream modern society.

Me, I had nintendo and watched a bit more tv but my mom could only stand the nintendo music so long (about 1 hr) then she threw us out to play.

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from RJ Arena wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I'm working from home, so I have the tv on 24 hour news, I have both computers working and the radio on in the bedroom, So what can I say? I will see if my neighbor and his kids will go fishing after school today. When I was a kid it was so easy to off in the woulds messing around a stream, just outside in air.Today it seems like it takes an act of congress to see children outside.Someone complained the other day that the kids next door to her were playing ball in the street with their mom. I could not believe the complaint. I was happy to see them outside.

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from mitchw wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Oh, I forgot to put in that my son is 5 years, 2 monthes old, and is able to communicate to me now that his left foot is starting to freeze solid, which makes the outdoor pursuits a whole lot more enjoyable. :-)

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from chadlove wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Mike, I know what you're saying, and your son's television habits sound a lot like my son's: nature and science documentaries, history channel fare and Survivorman.

Really, I'm not a raving Luddite who's an advocate of "shoot your television, your computer and every other modern convenience." I mean, hell, I make my living on the computer and I even have a Facebook account...

But we seem to have lost the concept of all things in moderation, and I truly believe there are a shockingly large number of parents out there who have completely abrogated any meaningful parental involvement to the technological crack-peddlars that target our children literally from birth.

You're right, the unavoidable economic and cultural pressures of modern life mean we can't all be Swiss Family Robinson, lord knows I'm not, but we can at least do what we can to mitigate those corrosive influences.

You obviously are, but I think there are a helluva lot of parents out there who aren't.

Just ask any veteran public-school teacher about the striking changes in their students over the past 10-15 years...

And it's interesting that you mention the physical characteristics of the typical modern American subdivision and the very real and deliberate barriers they pose to kids being kids. Louv devotes a lot of time to that very subject in his book.

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from Ruckweiler wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Take my kids fishing and shooting. Have them turn off the mindless media and go outside. When I was a teacher a few years ago, my students told me of friends who went home after school and spent 6-8 hours on the computer playing games. Unfortunately, we'll pay a dear price as a society because of lazy parents.

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from thuroy wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

setting in front of the computer can be just as bad. My parents had a rule that we couldn't watch T.V. until 7 on weekdays. We could play outside or do are homework, but we spent most of our time outside. As a teacher I sometimes assign as homework for kids to spend a at least a half hour playing outside.

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from shane wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Louv's book might be the most important piece in recent memory, but no one knows it. I think we might be screwed on this one.

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from Big O wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

The thing that gets me(and you all forgot to mention).
CHILD-HOOD OBIESITY !(?).
The parents want/do this to there kids, then want to sue fast food corps, etc. and thak them on Maury and say "pity me/my kid(s) because they are FAT !
Why they ask. BECAUSE YOU ARE A MORON ! ! !

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from Big O wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Sorry jjas, missed your blog. To MAD at "these" "parents"(loosely used definition)

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from ranger2 wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Outstanding post folks. I have taken considerable interest in this topic, being trained in P.E. and health education and outdoor recreation. This is certainly one of the greatest changes in our culture in recent times, as well as one of the biggest challenges: how to get kids outdoors and away from the media frenzy. There are more barriers to that now than ever. If parents and sportsmen want to give the legacy of nature to their kids, it will have to be done deliberately.
On a personal note, I do not make that great a living, but I live in a 300 acre wooded park where my kids are free to experience nature the way it should be- hands on. I also do not have TV reception of any kind, and only allow the kids to watch one or two videos a week. NO video games ever, and internet is limited to PBS kids once every blue moon for now. I have far fewer structural barriers than most folks do, but I encourage people to get creative and give their kids what they can.

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from RJ Arena wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

report, we didn't catch any thing worth keeping but a good time! the kids got good and dirty too! Bonus!!!

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from VTDEER wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I have read the book that was mentioned (Richard Louv's "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.") It's an interesting read, also a scary one. I recommend it to everyone.

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from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I just spent the last four days in the woods hunting and being away from the sounds in a neighborhood. I still couldn't escape cars driving down the road or some other modern luxuries but still being part of an ecosystem in your treestand is something everyone needs to feel once in there lifetime to sit and ponder lifes questions or think nothing at all it cleanses the soul. as fred bear once said. "if some of our teenage thrill seekers really want to go out and get themselves and thrill let them go up to the yukon or the northwest for grizzly bear, polar bear or brown bear. It will cleanse the soul." if all us kids could do that in a small version in the neighborhood woods and let your mind wander it would change everything.

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from fliphuntr14 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

i lived about an hour away from where i live now in green bay wisconsin... we came up here every weekend from the time i was 4 until i was 15 and we moved up here. (im 19 now) i think it was the best thing my parents could of done instead of running around an area with little for kids 2 do in the summer i now fish or hunt just about every week. not to mention all the other things i can do at the lake down the road from my house and all the public land and trials about a quarter mile from my house. i think trial cameras would be a great addition to the class room i always liked and looked for opportunities in school to use my knowledge of the outdoors.

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from losername2of2 wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

I'm 16 years old and I spend very little free time in doors. I love Fishing and hunting. Honestly I'd rather be standing frostbitten and smelling like steelhead in the Cattaraugus than watching tv. I even have my own fishing blog www.troutfishingny.blogspot.com

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from mjvande wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Last Child in the Woods ––
Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
by Richard Louv
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
November 16, 2006

In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building "forts", farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what's to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though ("conveniently") never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, "Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!", at http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3.

It should also be obvious (but apparently isn't) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how we learn to treat it. Remember, children don't learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building "forts", mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

On page 144 Louv quotes Rasheed Salahuddin: "Nature has been taken over by thugs who care absolutely nothing about it. We need to take nature back." Then he titles his next chapter "Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?" Where indeed? While fishing may bring one into contact with natural beauty, that message can be eclipsed by the more salient one that the fish exist to pleasure and feed humans (even if we release them after we catch them). (My fishing career was also short-lived, perhaps because I spent most of the time either waiting for fish that never came, or untangling fishing line.) Mountain bikers claim that they are "nature-lovers" and are "just hikers on wheels". But if you watch one of their helmet-camera videos, it is easy to see that 99.44% of their attention must be devoted to controlling their bike, or they will crash. Children initiated into mountain biking may learn to identify a plant or two, but by far the strongest message they will receive is that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It's not!

On page 184 Louv recommends that kids carry cell phones. First of all, cell phones transmit on essentially the same frequency as a microwave oven, and are therefore hazardous to one's health –- especially for children, whose skulls are still relatively thin. Second, there is nothing that will spoil one's experience of nature faster than something that reminds one of the city and the "civilized" world. The last thing one wants while enjoying nature is to be reminded of the world outside. Nothing will ruin a hike or a picnic faster than hearing a radio or the ring of a cell phone, or seeing a headset, cell phone, or mountain bike. I've been enjoying nature for over 60 years, and can't remember a single time when I felt a need for any of these items.

It's clear that we humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife, if they, and hence we, are to survive. But it is repugnant and arguably inhumane to restrict human access to nature. Therefore, we need to practice minimal-impact recreation (i.e., hiking only), and leave our technology (if we need it at all!) at home. In other words, we need to decrease the quantity of contact with nature, and increase the quality.

References:

Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier -- An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods -- Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Reed, Sarah E. and Adina M. Merenlender, "Quiet, Nonconsumptive Recreation Reduces Protected Area Effectiveness". Conservation Letters, 2008, 1–9.

Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J., http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande, especially http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/ecocity3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/sc8, and http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/goodall.

Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

"The Wildlands Project", Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

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