Getting kids to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature.
By Hank Osborn, East Hudson Program Coordinator
Enjoying the woods–no iDevices necessary. (Photo credit: Hank Osborn)
Almost every weekend, year-round, my wife and I enjoy a good hike with our adolescent children. We love our local trails, the exercise, and getting out into nature. The children do not share our views. They require encouragement to join us every time. They actually enjoy each hike, every weekend, but then they seem to forget by the following Saturday or Sunday that they had fun in the woods. There seems to be a powerful force affecting their memory and motivation.
We have to work to get the children out of the house. They resist us. “Do we have to go? Can I stay here? I went last weekend.” To which we respond, “Yes, you went last weekend and you loved it; and no, you cannot stay home; and yes, you have to come on the hike today.”
Without iPhones, Lila and Callie take a break during a hike they thoroughly enjoyed on Fishkill Ridge. (Photo credit: Hank Osborn)
I think our children are representative of many kids in this modern age of miniaturized and highly powerful in-your-face-technology. The children would rather sit around on the couch and zone out on their iDevices then walk through the woods—or do anything at all.
It takes cajoling. We have to repeat ourselves and be firm and not give in to their desperate offers to negotiate. “I’ll go on the hike if I don’t have to do the dishes tonight. I’ll walk the dog if you let me skip the hike. I can’t hike now, I just took a shower, can we do it later?” To which we respond: “Nope. No, and no—get in the car now.”
We drive to the local trailhead, unload ourselves, and announce, “leave your screens in the car.” There is often surprisingly little fuss at this request—except for the consistent rebuttal of, “but we need our phones to take pictures.” To which we respond: “Sorry. Let’s go.”
The next hurdle is the hiking-through-the-woods part—and guess what? The children love it! They laugh and run and smile and joke and play and absolutely enjoy themselves. See the accompanying photos as proof.
Maya has a great time crossing a rushing stream–even with her iPod back in the car. (Photo credit: Hank Osborn)
Sometimes we hike a loop, other times we go out-and-back, and sometimes we drop a car and hike from point to point. At the end of the hike, when we all pile back into the car, the children are often subdued and a little tired. They gobble up their iDevices and stare at the screens. We sometimes hear, “Mom, Dad, that was awesome.” We don’t hear it every time—but sometimes.
My wife and I are not changing the world, but it feels as if we are fighting against it. The power these little machines have over our children is very, very strong. It wants to keep them inside on the couch and out of the woods. We feel we are doing the right thing by fighting against that corruptive power, getting our children to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature through our weekly forced march.
Want to get your kids unplugged and into the woods? Find a family-friendly hike in your area using our hikes database.