Cari Morgan is the Communications Manager for O.A.R.S., one of the leading outdoor adventure outfitters in the U.S. A former PR consultant and veteran wordsmith, she spent 10+ years promoting various organizations and businesses before finding what she considers to be her dream job in the outdoor industry. Long recognizing the restorative benefits of nature in her own life, through her work and writing, she’s passionate about inspiring people to spend more time outside and in the wild.
photo credit: Pali Institute
Four to seven minutes per day. That’s how much time the average American child spends outdoors. Shocking, right?
But even more shocking is that according to a 2015 study by Common Sense Media, American youth between the ages of 8 to 18 on average are logging 7.5 hours of screen time per day.
This seems almost impossible. Yet, as I think about my own family’s use of devices and daily media consumption, I’m uneasy about where things are headed.
I know there’s no escaping the use of technology, but I want to find balance for myself and my kids. And I know I’m not alone.
Last fall, my colleague Steve Markle, VP of Marketing for O.A.R.S. (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists), sat on a panel at the Family Travel Association Sumit which focused on the benefits of disconnected nature travel for kids, families and our planet. During the discussion, Markle talked about how introducing kids to the outdoors is not only essential for their physical and emotional health, it’s the best way — maybe the only way — to ensure the protection of our national parks and public lands for the enjoyment of future generations.
The topic resonated with the conference attendees (travel professionals, bloggers, social media influencers) — many of whom were moms like me who want to spend more time disconnected from our devices and outdoors with our families, but also understand how quickly life can get in the way of our best intentions.
So, how do we encourage more families to get outside together and into the wild places we love? This is the question our team pondered after the summit, and ultimately inspired the idea for the #100HoursUnplugged Challenge.
The #100HoursUnplugged Challenge is simple: To get as many people as possible to commit to spending 100 hours unplugged, outdoors and together as a family this summer.
One hundred hours is just about four days. It’s a long weekend, two separate weekends, or maybe it’s every Saturday in June.
And whether families regularly unplug or hardly ever unplug together, it’s totally doable. In setting out to launch this campaign, that’s what we envisioned — a challenge that wasn’t completely out of reach for the average person.
“At its core, this challenge is all about future generations and leaving a legacy — and having fun while we do it,” Markle says. “It’s up to all of us to ensure that our kids and grandkids grow up knowing wild places, wild rivers and that indomitable spirit of adventure — and that starts with unplugging.”
The Case for Going #100HoursUnplugged
Childhood has largely moved indoors and online. Among the top culprits often cited: disappearing open space; restricted access to natural areas; parental fear magnified by news and entertainment media; and most of all — screens. In just the past decade, there’s been an unprecedented acceleration in the speed and quantity in which we get news, media and our access to it — and as the Children & Nature Network’s growing database of studies has proven, it’s having real and lasting impacts on our lives, and especially our kids’ lives.
Gone are the days when kids would spend countless hours outside playing with their neighborhood friends. Instead, screens, games and videos have become the new playtime or the go-to answer for boredom. And for many parents, it almost feels like a battle that can’t be won.
I was floored recently when we had a group of friends over for a campfire. After the initial excitement wore off, all of the kids wanted to go inside to watch a movie. Here I was trying to create a memorable outdoor experience for a group of kids, and all they wanted was to watch Netflix.
This battle over screen time and technology is something many parents can relate to. It’s not easy to unplug our kids (or ourselves), but disconnecting and reconnecting with each other in nature is needed more than ever. That’s why it’s up to us to get it right — to unplug every once in a while and teach healthy technology habits, to get outside together as a family, and hopefully, foster a love and respect for the outdoors that lasts a lifetime.
This means giving our kids the opportunity to spend meaningful time in nature just being kids, observing wildlife, splashing in a river, catching crayfish, standing under a waterfall, picking blackberries, watching the sunset, and sleeping under the stars.