Editor's Desk - November 2014
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Heads Up!

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person." —Comedian Louis C.K.

If you live somewhere where there is such a thing as a perfect fall morning (I'm looking at you, fellow Midwesterners, as well as you, readers from the Northeast), then you will know what I'm talking about when I tell you that this morning was a perfect fall morning. Temperature just right for a light jacket and stocking cap to keep you plenty warm. Leaves blazing in their full autumnal glory. Sunlight that seems somehow brighter, maybe because we're getting so much less of it now than just a few months ago.

On this perfect fall morning, I stepped out for my regular turn along the forest path, and delighted in this short-but-sweet part of the season. You know, before it all turns dark and gray on us. Lots of other folks were out and about, and a good number of them commented on the fine quality of the morning. A fine fall morning is a good enough reason to start a conversation with anyone, and I found myself chatting with an older couple about whether we appreciate this sort of day all the more because we just don't get that many of them around here.

But then, as I turned a bend into a particularly stunning view of some oaks all gone to burgundy, scarlet and rusty browns, I passed a woman who was not looking up at all. In fact, she seemed wholly unaware that there was anything around her. You see, she had her smartphone in hand, and was absorbed in whatever was going on there. As I got closer, I caught the unmistakable soundtrack of that candy-crushing game. And I thought, "Oh, how sad."

We've all talked about the need to get people away from television and videogame screens. The need to get them outside and engaged with nature, or out and active in some way or another. And we all know the sad statistics—the hours spent by the average child (around 6 hours a day), as well as the average adult (around 8.5 hours a day) in front of a screen. And we all know the benefits of shutting those things off and stepping away for a bit.

But with the rise of i-everything, there's a new sort of screen time that also seems to need some attention.

This need is most obvious on the road, but it's also a problem in settings like aquatic facilities and playgrounds, where we see a rising concern that parents who should be supervising their children in the water or on the equipment are, instead, absorbed in that tiny glowing magical box.

Many types of recreation and sports facilities ask that parents actively supervise their children. How many of them formally state that such supervision requires putting down the smartphone?

But beyond those specific scenarios, there are other, perhaps less obvious times when we might wish that everyone would just power down and ramp up their engagement and attentiveness. Parents ought to be watching their kids on the soccer field, too. And yes, a hike through the woods on the most perfect sort of fall day is a really nice reason to shut off the device and just … be.

So, stepping down from my soapbox, I want to know what you think. Are you also seeing too many people engaged with screens instead of the world around them? And, have you ever thought of some ways you might encourage people to leave the screen behind?


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
Recreation Management