Children’s Day: Cherish Experiences That Enhance Five Senses

Society has been changing drastically with the advancement of digital technology. What kind of skills do children need to survive in such an era? It is hoped that people think about this question together on this Children’s Day.

According to a survey conducted by the Children and Families Agency last year targeting those ages 10 to 17, respondents used the internet for about five hours a day on average, about 30 minutes longer compared to a similar survey conducted two years ago. After exercising self-restraint on activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, children may have become more dependent on smartphones.

Watching videos until late at night can lead to a lack of sleep, which could cause children to have decreased motivation to learn as well as physical and mental illness. It is not rare for elementary school students to have their own smartphone. It is crucial to set rules for smartphone use among family members.

For today’s children, smartphones are an indispensable tool to keep in touch with friends and for entertainment. However, even if a question comes to mind in their daily life, they may try to find the answer on their smartphone without thinking for themselves, as they rely on the device excessively.

It can hardly be considered healthy for children to stay in their room and immerse themselves in the virtual world for a long period of time. It is desired that they cherish real experiences gained through the five senses. Children are encouraged to put aside their smartphone at times and make opportunities to be active and carefree outside.

Some studies have shown that activities experienced in nature, such as mountain climbing, playing in a river and camping, raise children’s self-esteem. Social experiences, including volunteer activities and agricultural work, are also said to be effective.

Neighborhood parks are important places where children can enjoy playing outside. However, in recent years, playing with balls and raising one’s voice have been increasingly prohibited in urban areas. Exercise equipment for the elderly, instead of playground equipment, has been installed in some parks.

After all, even if children gather at parks, they often end up sitting in a circle with their friends and playing games, rather than running around. Children need more places where they can play freely.

To that end, one idea would be to increase the number of so-called play parks, where children can enjoy the things they want to do, such as making fires and climbing trees.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has promoted the expansion of such playgrounds since last fiscal year. Under the initiative, municipalities obtain information from children such as what they want to do and what facilities they need, and the information is incorporated into measures.

The Basic Law on Children’s Policy, which came into effect last year, calls for the central and local governments to reflect children’s opinions in their policy measures. Children should be able to enjoy themselves more by being included in the process to secure places where they play.

The population and birth rate have been declining in Japan. It is hoped that society as a whole will be aware of the need to support the growth of each child.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 5, 2024)