A Central Park for Our Kids - Replace Screen Time with Green Time
I want you to think back to your childhood. If it was like mine, you spent a lot of your time riding bikes with your friends and staying out until your mom called you in because it was getting dark and your dinner was getting cold. My friends and I spent most of our time in the woods behind my house, climbing trees and collecting sticks and leaves.
Now think about the childhood of those growing up today. Like me, you probably aren’t surprised by the statistics. According to the National Wildlife Federation, children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. The average American child spends five to eight hours a day in front of a digital screen.
We as a nation have traded green time for screen time, and the effects have already begun to show. The effects have become so prevalent that a new term was introduced in 2005: Nature-Deficit Disorder. While it is not (yet) a medical diagnosis, it does serve as a good description of the human costs of alienation from nature.
Studies have shown that learning in nature can support improved relationship skills and reduced stress, anger, and aggression in children. They are better able to cope with stress when they live near trees and other greenery. Outdoorsy children are less vulnerable to bone problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health issues. They also have a decreased chance of being diagnosed with nearsightedness.
If being outside in nature is so great for children, then why aren’t more children spending more time outdoors?
According to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, “Among the reasons: the proliferation of electronic communications; poor urban planning and disappearing open space (emphasis added); increased street traffic; diminished importance of the natural world in public and private education; and parental fear magnified by news and entertainment media.”
We in Red Bank can change this, though. Instead of more storage units or commercial spaces that will sit vacant, we can choose to invest in our city and in ourselves. We can choose to change the trajectory and give kids a space to be kids. We can give them space to be free to explore and get dirty. We can choose to be better. We can choose to keep a large green space in the middle of our city – Red Bank Central Park can be a place for green time versus screen time.
We have an opportunity in Red Bank to say "Enough is enough!"
I don’t want more vacant stores; I want a place where my kids can explore and make memories like the ones I have of my childhood. If you believe that your kids and their kids will benefit from an epic park in the middle of our city, I hope you’ll join me in protecting our Red Bank Central Park for all future generations.
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