Technology plays a big part throughout humans’ lives, from young children to older adults. Kids are accused of being addicted to screens, but who gives them the example? Jaime Gonzales, Houston Urban Conservation Programs Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Texas, shares his childhood stories and his opinions with the world.
Gonzales has observed that kids are spending more time on screens rather than going outside. Schoolchildren play outside for only minutes a day, compared to the seven plus hours of being in front of a screen (computers, TV, phones). That doesn’t mean they don’t want to enjoy the outdoors, though. Parents are easily convinced it’s the child’s choice to not go outside, but they don’t stop to think that they themselves might have raised their children to think like that. Gonzales disagrees with the parents’ opinions: “Kids haven’t changed. The world we created for them has changed.”
Gonzales grew up in the outskirts of Houston, surrounded by prairies, woods, and open space. He never visited a national or state park or went camping. But he was charmed by the simplest things in nature, such as going to drainage ditches to swim and fish for craw fish after it rained, or discovering insects and frogs when the ditches dried up. Those moments sparked his creativity and his interest in nature. He’s been an environmental educator in Houston since 1998, and teaches local African-American and Latino kids how to fish in city parks. That’s exactly what kids are missing: real adventures and opportunities to explore the world around them. Instead, what they get is structured activities, where the rules and outcomes are already set by adults.
All over the U.S., there are more cities and suburbs than parks. The average big U.S. city uses 9.3% of land for parks. Kids would love to go outside, but they don’t have many opportunities or the encouragement to do so. Most big U.S. cities have over-groomed parks, causing the loss of plants and insects that are attracted to them.
There are programs that are specifically focused on improving parks, and are able to add more nature in cities. The Nature Conservancy that Gonzales works for, and like-minded partners, can make a difference in the lives of children for the better. Instead of looking at electronics, they will perhaps spend time outside and enjoy what nature has to offer.
[Source: Nature Conservancy Magazine ~ Spring 2019]