Archive for Monday, July 10, 2006

Americans forgo outdoor activities for more electronic entertainment

July 10, 2006


Americans are forgoing the great outdoors as they resort to videophilia.

"The paradigm is changing," said Oliver Pergams, a University of Illinois-Chicago professor.

Pergams and another researcher set out to determine why visitation to national parks dropped 25 percent between 1987 and 2003.

What he found surprised him. Much of the decline could be attributed to increases in the time Americans are spending watching movies, playing video games and browsing the Internet.

Americans are less interested in nature and more interested in electronic media, Pergams said.

The study is one of the latest criticisms for a culture that some argue is too sedentary, too fat and too video-addicted.

The U.S. Census estimated adults spent more than four hours a day watching television on average in 2004.

"I think parks are just a proxy - an indicator of how much people are going out in general," Pergams said. "People are doing these things more and going outside into nature less."

Video game enthusiast Jake Whitebread, 7, Eudora, gets wrapped up playing a Nintendo Game Cube on Thursday afternoon at Game Guy in downtown Lawrence. Jake visited the store with his older brother Tyler Whitebread, 14, who says that he and his brother frequently play video games or spend time on their computer for a few hours a day.

Video game enthusiast Jake Whitebread, 7, Eudora, gets wrapped up playing a Nintendo Game Cube on Thursday afternoon at Game Guy in downtown Lawrence. Jake visited the store with his older brother Tyler Whitebread, 14, who says that he and his brother frequently play video games or spend time on their computer for a few hours a day.

Gamers like Tyler Whitebread, 14, of Eudora, defend their hobby. Tyler, who stopped in at Game Guy, 7 E. Seventh St., on Thursday to play some games with his younger brother Jake Whitebread, said playing video games is all about balance.

"I know people that have picked up weight because of staying inside all day and playing video games," Tyler said. "I like to do something during the daytime."

Tyler said he plays games at night so he can do other things during the day, like hang with friends and play pool.

"The best is when you find a balance," he said.

From dieting to computer use, everything has a breaking point beyond which it becomes unhealthy, said Charlie Kuszmaul, a program coordinator for Bert Nash Community Health Center.

There's such a thing as too much television and computer use, especially for young people, he said.

"What they end up getting is a lot of electronic stimulation in place of human stimulation, human interaction," he said.

It can affect creativity because kids don't learn how to amuse themselves with creative play, he said.

"The less experience you have at stimulating yourself or doing creative play, the less good at it you are," Kuszmaul said. "The less good at it you are, the less likely you are to engage in it."

Pergams' study appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Environmental Management. Patricia Zaradic, a conservation biologist, is the paper's co-author.

Pergams tested numerous variables and found a high correlation between the decrease in park visits and increases in Internet use, home movie rentals, theater movie watching, video games and oil prices.

The results, he said, show a strong association between the rise in electronic media use and the decline in park visits, but not necessarily a cause/effect relationship. The researchers coined the term videophilia, the new human tendency to focus on sedentary activities involving video screens or electronic media.

Pergams said the findings can be alarming because as people become less interested in nature, they won't be interested in environmental conservation.

Shannon O'Lear, Kansas University assistant professor of environmental studies and geography, said there may be other indicators of whether people are environmentally conscious.

"There may be other ways that people are getting back to nature," she said. "Maybe working in the garden is getting back to nature."

People are often very busy these days, she said, and getting a dose of nature doesn't have to mean visiting a national park.

"It's as easy as getting outside, being around plants and trees, taking a walk, listening for bugs, digging in the dirt," she said.


TJ_in_Lawrence 7 years, 9 months ago

This is the reason, that I packed up my kid's video games at the end of the school season. I stored all of them away for the summer. All of my kids are losing weight and having a great time!


Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

I wonder if some of these people do not understand that too much weight is very hard on every vital organ in the body. This situation also places way to much stress on the joints.

Thinning out usually makes people feel better hopefully because they are on the road to becoming healthier one more time.


iblong 7 years, 9 months ago

Again the LJW is bringing us information that we would not have other wise known. Great reporting....keep it up!


Curtis Martell 7 years, 9 months ago

Sigmund, what the hell do the SLT and misquitoes have to do with this article? Give me a break.


Christine Pennewell Davis 7 years, 9 months ago

people you can have it both ways just take the time to do outdoor activities. Most people just do not like all the "hassel" of camping or going out to the lake, And some are just lazy. I love all my modern life has to offer but I still know how to rough it. It comes down to drive, you either want to or your just to lazy to.


offtotheright 7 years, 9 months ago

The result: Fat kids/fat adults!


Sigmund 7 years, 9 months ago

Can't be true. Everytime there is talk about paving over the Lawrence swamp for the SLT we get a ton of ecomentalist telling us how there are no mosiquitoes there and what a lovely day they have trudging through the muck.


bennyoates 7 years, 9 months ago

"Whitebread"--I couldn't have thought of a more perfect name for the folks featured in this story.

I'd venture to say that some readers of the LJW online spend at least as much time blaming the least powerful people in society for its problems, as evidenced by online comments, as kids do playing video games. Today's comments on the homeless people story should provide a good illustration.


The_Original_Bob 7 years, 9 months ago

On the way to work this morning I heard on the radio that there are twice as many people now with Type II Diabetes than there was 10 years ago. And these were people generally over 40 who didn't have Xbox, VCRs, etc... growing up. Imagine what is going to happen to these kids with their fancy computers, DVDs, Xbox, etc...


small_fish_in_small_pond 7 years, 9 months ago

Very sad. But what can you say about the crassness of mainstream America?


classclown 7 years, 9 months ago

The root of news is NEW. This is nothing new. Or are people around here just now figuring this out?


Kelly Powell 7 years, 9 months ago

Please stay at home people.....The more who do so makes the fishing that much better.......


iblong 7 years, 9 months ago

Too much computer......not .....this is of course how I read the news"paper" anymore.


Commenting has been disabled for this item.