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Two Concerned Kiwi Dads Gather Experts to Talk Kids

Two Concerned Kiwi Dads Gather Experts to Talk Kids, Screens And Nature

In 2012 a worried British dad made a film that showed how excessive screen time is luring children away from a vital human resource: Nature. David Bond wrote, directed and featured in Project Wild Thing, an award winning film that was selected for 54 International film festivals. The project inspired him to found The Wild Network, a rapidly growing movement of over 25,000 people and organisations on a mission to ‘re-wild childhood’. Bond’s film is recognised as the UK’s most successful documentary of its genre; The Guardian newspaper said, “This film will change your life”.

Three years later two Kiwi dads saw the film and were struck by the project’s relevance to New Zealand. Promoter Simon Roberts and Phoenix Organics co-founder Roger Harris formed Subjects that Matter (STM) and decided they’d like to see Bond’s message shared with New Zealand experts already concerned about overuse of screens.

A year on, March 11, 2016 will see STM partner with The Parenting Place to give parents and anyone with a vested interest in childhood the chance to see Bond speak with a selected group of NZ professionals. The event is part of New Zealand Parks week organised by the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA).

Hosted by the filmmaker himself, the discussion will offer the audience insight, inspiration and practical solutions to balancing screen and outdoor time. The tickets will also include a private evening screening of Project Wild Thing on March 17 at Academy Cinemas in Auckland.

Subject specialists include: Senior Family Coach and Director of Content at The Parenting Place, Jenny Hale; Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) Specialist in physical activity and risky play in children, Dr. Scott Duncan; Specialist in family counselling and mediation Jill Goldson; Swanson Primary’s Pioneering Principal and Champion of Free Play, Bruce McLachlan.

AUT’s Dr Duncan has been studying childhood play in his role as Head of Research at the School of Sport and Recreation and the Associate Director of the Human Potential Centre at Auckland University of Technology. His recently released State of Play Report shows that in the last three decades, ‘there has been a dramatic decrease in children’s roaming area throughout the Western world’. Parents might recall bike rides, random exploration or unsupervised adventure – even at the local malls. But today, less than half of Kiwi kids aged 8-12 years are allowed to travel alone in their neighbourhood. Key reasons identified by parents are ‘the likelihood of road accidents and encountering ill-intentioned adults.’

Accordingly, Duncan’s work reveals that an average of 85% of children spend recreational time fixed on a screen for more than the recommended two hours a day; 60% of them do so for more than 4 hours a day.

This reality, captured with such clarity in Bond’s film, left STM’s Roberts keen to learn more. After piloting an educational promotion of an award winning climate change film for Victoria University, Roberts began exploring the concept of adaptingProject Wild Thing for New Zealanders. The project touched him on a professional and personal level.

“Without realising it, I had gradually watched my once gregarious, fit, active west coast kid, become happily confined to his room and screen. What amounts to an addiction has been hugely challenging to try to manage. But in sharing my concern with others I soon realised I was just one of thousands of parents feeling the same way.”

Subsequent STM business partner, Harris, is passionate about supporting the cause. The one-time gardener who always “wanted to champion for nature” is keen to see kids spending more time outdoors.
“We need nature in order to survive. Our connection with nature starts with childhood.”

‘Renegade’ principal Bruce McLachlan pulls no punches with advice on the sort of risk averse parenting that can lead to overuse of screens in children.

“I have on occasion facetiously said that the best thing parents can do to encourage kids to play is go inside and sit down with a glass of wine. And in fact, this is not too far from the truth. As far as kids are concerned, adults are two things: caring and controlling, and they are both very closely related. We want to wrap kids up in cotton wool for the very best reasons – we care about kids and don’t want them to get hurt. The reality is that getting hurt is a necessary part of growing up, as is getting dirty, as is being treated meanly by someone”.


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