This week I was really taken with the sentiment of a new campaign from Camping in the Forest which has teamed up with naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham. It’s a campaign calling for the great British public to take a step back from technology every once in a while and plug back in to nature and the British countryside – to disconnect to reconnect as it were.
I’m sure I’m not the only parent in the world today with concerns over the impact of technology on my kids’ lives. Though it’s hardly a new concern for parents, my perception at least is that my kids are growing up in a period of unparalleled technological development. Never before has technology and the distractions that it brings been so close at hand, or, quite literally, in the hand.
‘Balance’ has rightly been a key word in our house for the last couple of years and long may that continue. I’m not anti-technology – far from it – I know the ways in which my kids use various gadgets contribute hugely to their learning and education; I just want them to experience a childhood that replicates in part that of children in eras gone by.
For me, little beats the feeling of being outside in the countryside; whether that’s on my bike, camping out overnight or taking a simple walk with the kids. It’s how I spent my own childhood because in many ways that’s how my parents spent theirs, but also there just weren’t as many digital distractions for a kid in the 1980s as there are today. A day out last Bank Holiday weekend was the perfect example of disconnecting technologically (if you can excuse the camera I took with me) and reconnecting with nature as a family.
RSPB Pulborough Brooks in West Sussex is an excellent reserve for families. In fact the RSPB as a whole does a wonderful job in encouraging kids to take an interest in all forms of nature, not just birds. No more was this focus more evident than at the recent ‘Nightingale weekend’ at Pulborough celebrating one of our greatest songsters which was packed with families sporting binoculars, clipboards and quizzes.
It was wonderful watching my kids exploring the reserve, especially my eldest who, now six, seems to be taking a real interest in birds and the natural environment around him – it’s the perfect antidote to a Minecraft world he might otherwise be stuck in on the computer! It was magical watching his reaction to Nightingale song and being able to show him some of the birds he’s been reading about in one of my collection of bird books. He took great delight in matching up the likes of Grey Heron and Little Egret to the illustrations placed inside one of the hides.
My passion for nature and the countryside is deep-rooted. In many ways I have my parents to thank for that. For the next few years at least I’ll be doing my best to ensure my kids get that balance in their lives. Yes, they can have their time for gadgets and the games and, presumably in a few years, the social networks, but I just hope that rising up above all of that is a real love of the things that have graced our planet for considerably more time than the microchip. I hope in the future they are thanking me then as much as I thank my parents now.