Do video games and increased screen time signal the impending death of childhood in our society? What happens when children are deprived of outdoor play in nature? These questions are tackled in the new documentary film “Play Again“, by Ground Productions, which is currently being screened around the country. I’m hoping it will come close to my town so I can see it soon, rather than having to wait for it to come out on Netflix. I’ve enjoyed the small clips I’ve seen so far, and was particularly chilled by some footage that shows 3 and 4-year-old kids identifying commercial logos, like Apple and XBox, but unable to do the same for a single type of plant.
It sometimes feels like an enormous battle to try and fight against the intense commercialization of childhood. We really limit what the kiddo sees in terms of television, even so-called “educational” programs, because we are trying to set habits that will lead him away from situations where he’ll watch program after program and commercial after commercial. However, we already notice that he is drawn to the screens. Sean and I are both borderline computer-holics during the week, and often spend our evenings working on our respective projects. Already we see our son trying to imitate us, grabbing at the laptop, and the remote control, and reaching for our glowing cell-phones. We will most likely have to look at limiting our own project work time to after he is in bed in order to be better role models for screen-free time. But this is our culture, and we aren’t quite sure how to walk away from it. I know that he will have friends and go other places where he’ll watch shows and play games we don’t like, and he’ll be influenced by friends to buy-buy-buy. It’s a tricky situation. We will try to counter it as much as possible with time outside, time spent creating and imagining and exploring in the woods fields and shorelines we are lucky enough to have access to.
There is a memorable quote in the clip above from the director of the Nature Conservancy, “What they do not value, they will not protect, and what they do not protect, they will lose.” THIS is the reason we do what we do, why we get outside every chance, and bring the kiddo out into the backyard to roll on the grass, and into the mountains, despite the snow and mud and bugs. This is why we will pack him into a canoe and paddle him all over the northeast, even before he can walk: the enduring hope that he will learn to value and protect the natural world around him, despite the odds.
Here is a longer clip from the film: