Youth Are More Active Than You Think...

King of the Playground

The news has been getting me down lately.  I really don’t know how to fix terrorism or the sorry state of our culture when it comes to gender roles etc.  But I have seen a few things this week that make me want to refute claims that our youth are overly sedentary and our digital society is ruining how they socialize.

We’ve had a nice Indian Summer going on here, and when I’ve gotten home from work, the easiest way to get the kids out of my wife’s hair while she prepares dinner is to head out the back door, through the backyard, to a local playground.  If you’ve been reading this blog at all before today, it should come as no surprise that we get active outside as a family; at least half of this year’s posts follow that theme.

My kids, however, are very young - too young for cellphones, tablets, video games or even most television.  They don’t necessarily represent (even demographically) the overall problem that gets reported in the media.

On Tuesday, I was at the park with the Lightning Kid; Shark Boy is still getting used to full school days without naps, and was taking it easy at home.  I saw some pre-teen boys doing some calisthenics.  I found it puzzling, because there didn’t seem to be a real leader or purpose to their exercises, but I was still glad to see young people being active.  The Lightning Kid and I played our little game of climbing up the playground and going down the slide for a while before we got called to dinner, but on the way back, I noticed their exercises had progressed to martial arts kicks.  I started to think they might be doing some kind of pretend ninja training... then I saw one of the kids consult a tablet. They were obviously following some kind of Youtube workout/training video!  Score one for the digital age.

Yesterday, I took the Lightning Kid to the playground again, and I got a call that Shark Boy wanted to join us.  He ran out of the backyard and I made sure he got to the park.  Once we started climbing the structure, we found we had to share it with some teenagers (I’d put them around 14 - definitely a little older than Tuesdays’ kids).  They were playing Manhunt/Manhunter or something - basically a combination of tag/hide and seek that involved teamwork.  I don’t need to figure out the details - I played games like that as a kid too, and rules always vary from region to region and generation to generation.  The point is, they were breathlessly sprinting, climbing, trash-talking etc. not cyber-bullying or sexting, or any of the other things we worry about teenagers getting up to.

Technology has a way of reshaping our culture for better and for worse, but the important thing to remember is that it usually fragments the way we spend our time rather than making wholesale replacements - kids are playing outside AND playing video games, for example.  It’s not always black/white/either/or out there.

Have you seen any examples of kids engaging in traditional play, or even re-interpreting it for the modern age?

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