Thursday, June 26, 2014

Childhood Memories That Last A Lifetime

© Othmar Vohringer

On Facebook I came across a “Meme” that contained the following verse: “Memories aren’t made playing video games on the computer.” I had to think about this for a minute and realized that there is a lot of truth in it. Virtually all of my most treasured and vivid childhood memories revolve around outdoor activities with family and friends. Conversely I have almost no recollection of when I started to play (the then) popular video games like Mario and Pong in coffee bars, let alone with whom I played them with and if I lost or won.

While surely not all of the widespread problems with youth today can be blamed on video games, recent social research shows us that some of the more serious social problems can be attributed to these games, especially when children spend many unsupervised hours on the computer. Research done at the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University showed a clear link between juvenile violent offenders with video games as a high risk factor. Other studies on the social aspect of video gaming and online networking seem to reveal that excessive use, up to 3 hours per day, results in a severe lack of attention leading to reduced school grades, lack of patience and loss of reality in real world life. The research also showed that this in turn leads to violent and angry behaviour patterns in over 80 percent of the research subjects. An equally disturbing trend in the research found that these children also suffer from a lack of empathy, compassion and poor social skills.

In other words, they lose touch with the real world and how to behave in a social group which can lead to emotional and behavioural conflicts within the family and society.

On the flip side, a study commissioned by the Eckhard Foundation showed that outdoor activities provide children with self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and a heightened ability to learn. These children also showed more patience and better social adjustment.

There are scientific reports that children exposed to outdoor activities vastly improve their academic skills and lessen considerably their disruptive behaviour. The benefits of outdoor activities is so great in the positive development of children that many schools and youth offender facilities have developed educational outdoor programs with great success in turning “behaviourally disordered” youth into “behaviourally normal” youth.

To me these findings are a no-brainer, because all outdoor activities can be enjoyed as a family and have fun while doing it. An often ignored factor is that family is the most important social structure in a child’s life. It is in the family where our children learn social skills and the associated problem solving skills without resorting to violence, like in video games.

On that note, engage your children in some of the great outdoor activities, not only will this provide provide youth and adults alike with much needed exercise but create memories shared as a family that will last a lifetime.

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