Op-Ed: Ditch the Electronics, Step Outside

Photo illustration by Edan Zinn ’23.

In this day and age, it is rare to go a day without interacting with technology. While a useful tool in many instances, technology has become an easy activity that is often chosen over reading a book or going outside.

This is increasingly problematic as modern children spend an average of 4-7 minutes a day playing outside compared to an average of 7.5 hours spent on electronic devices per day. While useful academic tools, devices such as tablets and laptop computers can also be used for entertainment purposes — an option that is hard to resist for many young children.

These statistics are incredibly concerning –– children should be spending time playing outside instead of endless hours staring at screens.

The health impact of this dependency on technology cannot be ignored and is most problematic in winter months when the weather outside is already a deterrent for spending time outdoors.

Vitamin D is important to maintaining healthy bones and teeth, as well as protecting against conditions such as Type 1 Diabetes.

Sun exposure is one of the main sources of vitamin D, and during the winter, it can be more difficult to ensure one is spending enough time in the sun. Whether it is due to poor weather outside or the ease of indoor entertainment, many students are spending less time outdoors in colder months.

In the summer, it is easier for students to ensure they are spending time outside because many sports, games, and other activities can be played outdoors. The hot summer sun frequently serves as an incentive to go outside as well.

But in the winter, the weather is not as enticing or encouraging for students to go outside. This can lead to vitamin D deficiency, as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is defined as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons,” and most commonly occurs during the winter season.

One of the reasons SAD is most common in winter months is that it is difficult to find opportunities to be outside. According to Harvard Health, there is “a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.”

This association is not present in technology. We cannot let the ease of entertaining ourselves with electronic devices overshadow the importance of outdoor activity.

In the current digital age, electronics have a constant presence in our everyday lives. But sometimes, we need to take a step back from these tools and focus on what is right in front of us –– the great outdoors.

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