Today’s generation of kids is called the hyper-parented generation. Like never before, parents today attempt to do everything they can to protect their children. In today’s world safety is a god.
I recently read a parody of the book Goodnight Moon in The New Yorker. It is very funny! You can read it here. The last lines in the poem state:
Goodnight wipes warmer and yoga mat, HEPA filter and sun hat,
Sunscreen, sunglasses, sleep sack, outlet cap, sleep coach, G &T , star charts, consumer reports,
Vitamin D, anything with Omega-3, French au pair, filtered air and—
Goodnight alpha parents everywhere.
Satire? Maybe, but reality is not too far off. We give our children more and more “things” to keep them healthy and safe. Our children are now kept closer to us, their every move often planned and monitored. We do so because, of course, we want what we think is best for our children. This often involves keeping our children inside.
People today are outside in nature much less often than ever before. There really isn’t a great need to get outside thanks to computers, social media, the internet, and all of our devices. We can “go” anywhere we want to with the click of a mouse. More people now live in urban areas than rural ares, making it difficult to get out into nature. Our children just don’t get outside much anymore.
Children today are also enrolled in so many activities that they just don’t have time to play outside. Plus, the protectiveness of today’s parents often have them worried about the dangerous of nature. UV rays, pollution, ticks, wild animals, trees falling, weird men, etc.; safety concerns outweigh the benefits in the minds of many parents. A sterile indoor environment is just safer.
But what if, while trying to keep our kids healthy and safe, we are actually having the opposite effect?
By remaining inside we have lost exposure to microbes found outside that play an important role in regulating our immune system. You can read more about it here. Studies have also found that there is a bacteria found in dirt that can activate neurons in the brain that produce serotonin. The bacteria act as natural antidepressants! Exposure to these microbes and bacteria found outside builds up a child’s immune system leading to fewer incidents of allergies, asthma, and serious illnesses.
It’s called the hygiene hypothesis. Your child can actually be in too clean of an environment. Extremely clean environments can fail to provide the necessary exposure to germs that allow for the immune system to learn how to defend itself from infectious organisms.
I read an article on the FDA’s website that said that the hygiene hypothesis is a possible cause of asthma. Overly clean homes in the developed world can effect a child’s maturing immune system. Two of my children have asthma. I am running with this! Yes, that’s right, my house was just too clean!
Now I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. I have just found this very interesting and another benefit of being outdoors. It’s something to consider. Does your child really need more synthetic vitamins, filtered air, antibacterial soap and cleaners, or do they just need to get outside and get dirty!
P.S.- My fourth child has eaten fish crackers off of mall floors and taken gummy bears from parking lots. Now I’m not saying there’s a direct correlation but she is a very healthy kid! Hmm….