Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Changing Nature of Childhood

DENNIS CAUCHON, USA TODAY - Today, childhood is spent mostly indoors, watching television, playing video games and working the Internet. When children do go outside, it tends to be for scheduled events - soccer camp or a fishing derby - held under the watch of adults. In a typical week, 27% of kids ages 9 to 13 play organized baseball, but only 6% play on their own, a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

The shift to an indoor childhood has accelerated in the past decade, with huge declines in spontaneous outdoor activities such as bike riding, swimming and touch football, according to separate studies by the National Sporting Goods Association, a trade group, and American Sports Data, a research firm. Bike riding alone is down 31% since 1995.

A child is six times more likely to play a video game on a typical day than to ride a bike, according to surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the CDC. Dakota Howell says his favorite video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is more fun than actual skateboarding.

The change can be seen in children's bodies. In the 1960s, 4% of kids were obese. Today, 16% are overweight, according to the CDC. It can be seen in their brains. Studies indicate that children who spend lots of time outdoors have longer attention spans than kids who watch lots of television and play video games, says Frances Kuo, director of the Human-Environment Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. . .

Since 1995, the portion of children ages 7 to 11 who swim, fish or play touch football has declined by about a third. Canoeing and water skiing are down by similar amounts.

The relationship between kids and their bikes is especially telling.
In 1995, 68% of children ages 7 to 11 rode a bike at least six times a year. Last year, only 47% did. The sales of children's bikes fell from 12.4 million in 2000 to 9.8 million in 2004, a 21% decline, according to Bicycle Industry and Retailer News, an industry magazine.

Soccer participation has been unchanged in the past decade - about 28% of kids age 7 to 11 play the sport. Soccer leagues and soccer camps are in full bloom this summer, although non-organized soccer games are uncommon. . .

Little League participation has fallen to 2.1 million children, down 14% from its peak in 1997. But overall baseball playing - pick-up games, catch, pickle - has declined nearly twice as fast, the NSGA surveys show.


At 9:54 AM, Blogger Keith said...

The part about football is interesting. We used to play football (not touch tho) literally every other day in grade school and early middle school. And when we couldn't get enough people, me and my neighbor still practiced, kicking FGs or making our own plays. Those were honestly the funnest times I had growing up. Its too bbad that Madden 2005 has replaced the backyard game of old.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

"n 1995, 68% of children ages 7 to 11 rode a bike at least six times a year. Last year, only 47% did."

I was one of those kids in 1995. I loved to ride my bike as a kid. As a child I managed to master the art of "no hands" bike riding and even managed to gather 12 stitches after hitting too much gravel. I still remember going to the store to pick my mountain bike out with my dad. :) Good times.

I hope when I have kids some day they can enjoy the fun that kids can have outdoors, from freeze tag with the neighbor kids to swinging quietly in your swing set in your backyard.


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