Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unplug and camp out

The National Wildlife Federation is urging families to turn off their TV, stay away from the Wii and keep that iPhone — or any other cell phone device — at bay this Saturday night (June 28). It's time for the fourth annual (electronic-free) Great American Backyard Campout!

I'm wondering if that idea was met by the sound of crickets chirping.

Kids are especially attached to their electronic toys and gadgets these days, which is why the national camp-out-in-your-backyard initiative was started. Apparently children spend an average of 44 hours a week starring at electronic screens, be it the TV, computers, iPod or video games, according to the National Wildlife Federation. By the way, I'm sure the average adult spends way more time starring at their computer screens at work and home.

The group believes this is the first time in America's history that a generation is coming up "disconnected from nature." This can cause children to have a weaker immune system, less appreciation for nature in general and become less creative, the National Wildlife Federation stated. Plus, they miss out on good wholesome fun.

I guess kids don't really camp as much anymore. I went camping once with my fifth grade class at a wildlife preserve. I learned how to put up a tent, make fresh lemonade and roast hotdogs over an open fire. Singing camp songs and listening to scary stories in the moonlight was a blast. The only bad thing about the whole experience, besides the bugs, was participating in some "Survivor"-type activities, which isn't as fun when you're an accident-prone 11-year-old.

But living in Florida, you can't help but commune with nature because it's so beautiful here, whether you're swimming at the beach, fishing in the river or picnicking at the park.

Those wanting to take the extra initiative to bond with nature should definitely participate in the Great American Backyard Campout. Check out to get some great ideas for camping activities and overall tips.

Although the campsite will be in the backyard, be sure to tell the kids to leave all the high-tech gadgets in the house. And that goes for you too! —January Holmes

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