The hidden costs of our virtual reality


This brings all manner of benefits, not least because our world is predominantly digital, and children with technological awareness are more likely to succeed when they come to enter their careers. No industry is exempt from increased ‘digitisation’, as society uses ever more complex technologies to replace what used to be solely manual labour.

These days, children are more computer-savvy than ever before. Homework which was once completed in the high-windowed libraries at the heart of each community can now be completed over the web, through handheld devices. Technological know-how is now assessed from pre-school onwards, with parents being asked to grade their offspring in terms of ability to navigate a computer screen, use a mouse and create online.

Nowhere is the increasing reliance upon technology to view our world more apparent, than in the many apps for young children which teach virtual skills. Instead of learning agriculture by tending crops outside, children can learn the basics through games such as ‘Farmville’, raising crops through a glass screen, indoors. Similarly, simulators and screens often replace basic outdoor pursuits such as walking, gardening, socialising and playing, with kids eschewing den building in favour of constructing their own virtual cities, inside.

What cost is our virtual world incurring?

It’s a fact that everyone needs to be outside for a proportion of their time, to stay safe mentally and physically. Vitamin D deficiency from a lack of sunlight is a constant issue in Britain; childhoods spent on screens indoors severely elevates that risk. Similarly, mental health benefits from walking, physical exercise and natural light, fresh air and a break from technology have all been researched and proven indisputable.

In the news recently, a number of high-profile celebrities have been reported upon for taking drastic action on behalf of their children – smashing iPads, confiscating phones, detaching children from online gaming at all costs. While these methods may seem a little harsh, is it perhaps the best approach?

A balanced approach to the great outdoors

Rather than smashing a gadget, at least let us consider limiting use, and swapping much of the gaming and online viewing which takes place indoors, for a real experience outdoors. Even the harsh British winter brings benefits for immune system health and sunshine, while it’s near-impossible to play outdoors without boosting circulation, improving stamina and maximising emotional wellbeing through exercise.

So, rather than allowing our virtual world to eradicate some of the benefits of our previous way of life, perhaps it is time to consider a more balanced approach – time outdoors rewarded through screen time, and each session of gaming evened out through some good old-fashioned outside play.

Not sure where to start? Check out some of the top ideas for getting out and about in the UK, whatever the weather, here.