Obama Fights Zombie Kids With New Initiative
You know what’s scary? Zombie kids — small, pale, motionless blobs with an eerie detachment from the world around them. No one wants to see vacant stares from children; it’s freaky and pretty depressing. But as more and more kids connect to their computers and iPhones, and disconnect from the world around them, the number of zombie kids is growing.
Take for example, the images of Australia-born photographer Donna Stevens. In her series, “Idiot Box,” she captured creepy pictures of children lulled into a stupor by the unknown happenings on the screens before them. There is no recognition of the photographer or the fact that they’re being photographed. The children are completely disconnected from the world around them. (And it’s super freaky!)
Thankfully President Barack Obama is taking action to prevent a zombie kid apocalypse. Last February, he launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative. When school starts this September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters — for them and their families — for a full year. The goal is to get these kids outside in the sunshine — away from their brain-numbing devices.
The passes and transportation incentives that are also part of the program will allow kids to experience some truly cool spots. They can travel in time at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona as they touch petrified wood and see the other fossils. They can climb up, down, over, and through the ancient jungle gym community at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. And they can scramble around the 2,000 formations that form Arches National Park in Utah.
“This park is way better than any video game,” Alex Schaefer, a 13-year-old admitted when he visited Arches. “I really like that I can get so close to — and even sit under — many of the arches. And the sandstone rock is so smooth and curvy that it makes climbing super fun.”
Schaefer’s words are not only a welcome relief to those who fear zombie kids, they’re words of hope for people who want to protect the environment. Studies have shown that playing outside can increase a child’s spiritual connection with nature and help them develop more self fulfillment, purpose, and a greater sense of environmental stewardship. It’s hard to imagine that Schaefer would be happy if he heard that the arches he thought were so fun were in trouble.
And getting kids away from their computers, iDevices, and TVs also teaches them how to be good humans. As Pope Francis warned in his encyclical, “…when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously” — the very characteristics that make us human. The “Idiot Box” series illustrates Pope Francis’s point nicely; there is no wisdom, thought, or love behind the eyes of the children in those pictures.
Thank you, President Obama. Letting 4th graders and their families explore federal lands and waterways for free won’t cost the country much and isn’t politically divisive. But it’s a big deal. Your initiative to get kids away from media and the digital world is protecting the country’s greatest natural treasures, the humanity of future generations, and — as over-the-top as it may sound — the American spirit.
It may be tiring for Schaefer’s parents to keep up with him as he scrambles around the arches, and some parents may want to avoid skinned-knees, mosquito bites, and dirty hands. But no parent wants a zombie kid!
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