Youngsters are growing up in a truly digital age.
Whether at home or school, much of the daily routine centres around technology- and that includes the classroom where even the new starters are tech adept.
New research conducted online by the National Forest revealed that despite the record temperatures this summer children spend an incredibly short amount of time outside.
It says increased access to digital technology has contributed to ‘DAD’ or Digital Addiction Disorder among five to 18 year olds.
According to the survey, parents want more to be done to make outdoor learning part of the school curriculum.
More than half of parents questioned believe increasing use of technology is driving their children away form nature and nearly a third think modern technology is having negative impact on their ability to interact verbally with people around them.
According to child psychology expert Dr Sam Wass, children prefer staying indoors exploring the virtual world than the real world, and lack access to safe green spaces.
Although lack of green space is a problem in some areas, Lancashire’s schools are tackling the problem.
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Outdoor lessons, based on The Forest School model developed in Scandinavia is growing in popularity in the county.
Schools across the area have set up their own Forest Schools including Higher Walton Primary which received a massive £10,000 donation for the Family Forest Fun project last year.
Children living in inner city Blackpool share a green oasis with the scout headquarters in St Annes where a piece of wooded land has been transformed into a thriving forest school where pupils from schools visit to observe wildlife, and to learn outdoor skills.
Alice Baillie-Bennett is a qualified teacher and pre-school manager in Lancaster. She helps with the associated Forest School and knows the benefits.
Alice says: “There are concerns about the mental health of young people.
“It is proven that physical exercise and being outdoors is beneficial to this which Forest School offers in abundance, and also it is great for developing social skills- helping each other with challenges, time to talk around the fire. It develops children’s ability to manage risks which has a positive impact on behaviour throughout their lives.”
Learning about the great outdoors starts early at Marton Primary Academy.
The South Shore school has a popular Forest School in woodland by the scout headquarters in St Annes.
However, the school is in the throes of setting up its own school so classes can take place much closer to home.
Headteacher Alice Coyle is proud sessions are child-led and take place in local woodland. She says free exploration in the outdoors helps children to grow and learn in a fun and meaningful way.
This unique approach promotes the development of the whole child, their self-esteem, confidence and independence, through child-initiated activities.
Mrs Coyle said: “They are encouraged to take risks, learn how to solve problems and overcome difficulties in a safe environment.
“Activities include hunting for mini beasts, building shelters, creating sculptures and collages with natural materials and caring for the environment.
“Our dedicated staff and parents see the children’s leadership and team building skills grow as they explore and experience the natural world.
What the survey said
A survey commissioned by National Forest Company among more than 4,333 UK adults, of which 733 were parents of children aged five to 18 years old, revealed:
- 78 per cent of all UK parents of this age group believe more should be done to ensure outdoor learning is part of the UK school curriculum.
- 67 per cent agree that their children spend too much time using modern technology, while 54 per cent think the increasing use of technology is driving a disconnect to nature for their children
- 58 per cent of UK children are online for an average 2.26 hours each day, excluding school
- 61 per cent believe their children are happier after playing or learning outdoors.