The Changed Mind

Blinded by the lights of technology and a world racing ahead with new inventions, how many of us count the stars, find the constellations, watch the moon or simply contemplate the vastness of the heavens? The mysteries of the night, total blackness and the night creatures are no longer a major part of growing up.

Living in apartments in brightly lit cities, entertained by TV, computers, phones and surrounded by technology of all kinds, the night is just one of the missing experiences for many children. Our brains are formed by experiences, the sum total of which creates the uniqueness of each individual. We are what we have seen, touched, heard, tasted and the understanding of the things we have experienced. The minds of the 21st century child have been influenced by technology more than any other generation before. The new influences have undoubtedly left their mark and, as yet, we do not know the results but we do know that today’s child is different.

These 21st century children can master all the features of any mobile phone, play computer games at age two and have enormous quantities of factual knowledge. Their parents proudly listen and marvel at the information that they have gleaned from the TV or latest movies. They spend many hours watching, using and manipulating electronic gadgets. They do not often make soap box cars or dresses for dolls. The radio is no longer a source of information but a music background in the car or dentist’s office. Noise dominates their world and silence does not exist very often.

Research has shown that exposure to nature has positive results in many areas such as behaviour and learning difficulties and in recovery from illness or bereavement. Recent research in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder shows how individual are helped significantly by exposure to the greenery found in nature. By simply providing greater opportunities to interact with nature, the frenetic changing patterns of behaviour become more subdues. If the calming effect of nature can be this profound, perhaps today’s children’s minds are losing out on a valuable building block for their future and if so, are we considering this as part of their right in childhood?

The mysteries of the natural world are free and available to each one of us but now we have to search for them and they are increasingly difficult to find. Listening for the call of a bird, recognizing a flower, finding a wild fruit, spotting a wild animal, watching the stars in the Milky Way may bring hidden benefits to young minds. Exposing our children to nature in all its forms could be parent’s finist contribution to the development of their child’s mind. Perhaps, after all, the future for each one of us, through our children, really is tied up in the stars and the heavens and, if so, we need to ensure that the lights of our artificial world do not become so pervasive that the starts can never be seen at all.

Published in: ABWM November 2007