Tees Society Forum, chaired by Peter Medd, a director of Redcar-based Cygnet Law, believes that children should be encouraged to ditch their portable devices and instead take to the great outdoors during their summer holidays.
The Forum gives leading community figures the opportunity to discuss key social issues affecting the Tees Valley community and this month it considered whether children would be better occupied during their school summer holidays by having outdoor excursions or playing computer games and using portable devices.
Mr Medd said: “This debate is timely as it comes in the wake of recent research, by the National Trust, that showed the majority of children play outside for less than an hour a day
“The traditional pursuits of climbing trees, building dens and making daisy chains have been replaced by hours spent in front of televisions and computers, according to the survey of 7 to 12-year-olds.
“The Forum’s overriding view was that while technology has a place in children’s lives it is vital for the health of the future generation that youngsters are encouraged to take part in outdoor activities. It should be all about balance with young people embracing technology while also enjoying outdoor pastimes.”
Iain Sim, Chief Executive of regeneration and housing company Coast & Country, said: “In place of fresh air and trips to the park, children are increasingly turning to technology to fill their time. Is it any wonder then, that as a nation, we are facing a childhood obesity epidemic? Tablets and games consoles should never replace bikes and skateboards, and parents should be mindful that technology can’t be used as a substitute for good parenting. However, new technology is undoubtedly beneficial when used in moderation and within a structured context. As with everything, we need to give our children a mix of activities to keep them engaged, keep them interested and keep them healthy.”
Richinda Taylor, Chief Executive of domestic violence charity Eva, said: “Children and young people need a variety of activities to stimulate them and that includes physical exertion and a limited amount of computer gaming that could encourage other skills such as hand/eye co-ordination.
“My concern about the excessive use of games/devices is that it is generally a solitary activity so young people do not have the opportunity to improve social skills or experience team activities.”
John Wall, Teesside District Manager at Darlington Building Society, said: “As a parent, I would prefer that kids spend more time outside on external activities – but that requires more supervision nowadays, so is not always possible. Organised events – often by the school or local council are a big help. Again, perhaps this is an area where local businesses could get more involved.”
Mr Wall added: “ I know the ideal would be more time with outside activities (in a safe environment), but being practical, if a happy medium can be found to include both – it’s probably the best solution. Plus, with our weather, if they didn’t have computer games when it rains, many parents would have a very bad experience over the summer holidays.”
Rev Rachel Harrison, Vicar at St Peter’s Church, in Redcar, said: “Children need to be out and about and depending on what is chosen depends on what resources are needed. A day out at an attraction may be completely out of the question for many families but here in Redcar we are blessed with many free or low cost opportunities for entertainment.
“A walk along the sea front, a game in the fountains, a climb up the Beacon, all free and accessible or how about a game in Zetland Park followed by a few hours on the beach with a bucket and spade. It doesn’t have to cost as long as carers find the strength to say no to beef burgers, ice cream and candy floss. So, excursions over portable devices? Well for me it has to be a bit of both, all held in balance.”
Councillor David Walsh, of Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “All these activities should be encouraged.
“Outdoor excursions can teach us about our local (or indeed overseas) environment, history and culture. Conversely, the sheer ease of access to knowledge and wider reading via the internet makes it far easier to find out and absorb knowledge. For my part, I cannot now imagine an unconnected world. Even games have value too.”
Martin Shutt, Managing Director of estate agents Parker Stag, said: “It is probably a sign of the times that many children will not leave their bedrooms during the school holidays.
“I strongly believe that outdoor excursions are critical to a healthy child. In addition to this it enlarges their circle of friends and experiences.”
Paul Gatenby, Independent Financial Advisor at Esk Valley Financial Services, said: “Spending time outside in the fresh air is far better than sitting in front of a computer or on a games’ console – of course, children may not agree initially.
“However, if you can get them motivated to play football, cricket, or any physical activity the benefits are immeasurable, there are lots of summer activities available at very little cost that make children interact with each other rather than sitting on a solitary computer. Fresh air and fun should be what the summer holidays are about and outdoor activity should be encouraged.”
For information on Tees Society Forum visit – www.teessocietyforum.com