Why More Kids Should Put Down Their Smart Phone and Climb a Tree

Seven hours and 38 minutes across a typical day: that’s how long the average 8 – 18-year-old spends using entertainment media. And because these youngsters spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they generally manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into that time. (These figures come from a Kaiser Family Foundation study done back in 2010, so the numbers are undoubtedly higher today.)

That’s bad enough, but on top of that, children are not getting enough solid exercise even when they aren’t transfixed by their electronic devices.

But a few organizations are trying to change that.

Image credit: crimsonninjagirl via Flickr

Image credit: crimsonninjagirl via Flickr

Live the Adventure is an outdoor adventure center in the UK, one of several such centers that believe children should be exploring the Great Outdoors instead of staying home with their electronic devices. The organization has just launched a brand new tree climbing course, the latest in a series of outdoor activities from kayaking to trekking, designed to re-engage the Xbox generation with the outdoors, but also to challenge them physically.

Ant Eddies-Davies, who runs the outfit, believes that in less than a decade the art of climbing trees and map-reading will be lost unless children are given more access to outdoor sports and education. He’s been leading outdoor training sessions in the UK for over 30 years, working with more than 250,000 children, and is shocked at the decline in ability.

Eddies-Davis explains to The Telegraph: “Go back to the ’80s and most of the children wouldn’t think twice about shinning up a tree or attempting a climbing wall. In the main they had a real thirst for adventure and were capable of pushing themselves to the limits. Now, we have children who have become so used to a sedentary lifestyle that they can barely get themselves out of the minibus let alone up a rope ladder.”

Image credit: newton via Flickr

Image credit: newton via Flickr

A few years ago, my own memories of exploring outdoors drove me to persuade my son, then 15, to join me in a rock climbing course. The experience dramatically changed life both for my son and for myself. Once he and I touched the rocks, we both knew that this was going to be a passion for us. Driving himself to climb higher and higher has both given my son the gift of physical strength and taken away his fear of pushing himself as hard as possible. Eddies-Davis has it right.

The UK is not alone in offering adventure sports. In the US, for example, Outward Bound programs take students, young and old, deep into beautiful wilderness environments, requiring participants to dig deep and discover hidden strengths, while gaining the confidence they need to succeed. Challenging activities include backpacking, canyoneering, canoeing, dog sledding, mountaineering, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, sailing, sea kayaking, skiing and snowboarding.

All this is especially important given the exploding rates of childhood obesity.

The percentage of overweight children in the US is growing at an alarming rate, with 33% of kids now considered overweight or obese. Obesity affects 17% of all children and adolescents (or 12.7 million young people) in the US, triple the rate from just one generation ago.

Statistics in the UK reveal a similar picture: 25 percent of boys and 33 percent of girls aged between two and 19 years are overweight or obese, and there’s little sign the incidence is slowing.

It’s not just in the US and the UK. Worldwide, 33% of children are overweight.  A 2005 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that more than 20 million kids under the age of 5 years old globally were overweight. In 2010, that number increased to nearly 43 million children.

Getting kids out and challenging them physically is a huge part of confronting the obesity problem. And it’s fun!

Activities like tree climbing and rock climbing bring an adrenalin rush, a wonderful feeling of being alive. As Eddies-Davies says: “There is something truly amazing about being outside in the fresh air. Imagine not being able to climb a tree? Or, worse still, not being bothered whether you climb it or not because you’re too busy shooting people on a computer game.”

Photo Credit: thinkstock


Tom C.
.3 years ago

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Moosa K.
Past Member 3 years ago

Remarkable stuff in the blog I love the topic as well thanks. bouncy castle hire

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Kids should not even have smart phones in the first place! Schools should bring back recess and PE.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Inconsolable T.
Terry M4 years ago

To hell with kids climbing trees, trees need to be protected from being damaged in any way.

Julia Oleynik
Julia Oleynik4 years ago

Thank you for sharing:)

Feather W.
Feather W4 years ago

all people need to be grounded and connected with the nature in order to stay healthy and make better choices in the life.

Miriam O.

Thanks so much for sharing with us!

DaleLovesOttawa O.

Climbing trees was a part of daily life when I was young, we had a lot of trees in the yard and we were also a very short walk away from some rather wild areas, where we found an endless variety of trees to climb. We had enjoyed the outdoors when we were young and still do.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams4 years ago

That's a no brainer!