The Wild Network is a group comprising hundreds of organisations committed to ending what is termed as a ‘nature deficit disorder’ in children. The group has come together to raise awareness about the increasing disconnect from nature, which is having a harmful effect on our younger generation.

In the UK, there is an ongoing campaign to convince parents and children both to spend more time outdoors by swapping 30 minutes of screen time in front of any of the multitude of gadgets we possess with outdoors activities and games.

This campaign is being marketed as a quest to rekindle a love of nature that has been lost and to give children a richer and deeper understanding of their surroundings. There are also very real concerns about the impact that too much time spent indoors has on health.

Most children have at one time or another been warned by adults to stop staring at the TV or computer screen because doing so would make them go blind. While not entirely true, recent research suggests that this idea cannot be dismissed completely.

The screens themselves might not cause blindness, but spending too much time indoors without exposure to direct sunlight has been linked to myopia or, as it is more commonly known, nearsightedness.

Myopia is hereditary; however the number of children with this condition has been growing at an alarming rate in many countries particularly in East Asia. For this reason it has become a subject of study so as to pinpoint the environmental factors that are contributing to the prevalence of this condition.

It has been found in several studies that spending more time outdoors reduces the incidence of nearsightedness in children. This is all the more reason to put away those tempting screens and make our way back to nature, our children in tow.

It is of course, not as easy as it sounds. Most children spend their daylight hours cooped up in classrooms working their way through highly structured lesson plans and complicated tests. There is little time left over for recess which has begun to be seen as a luxury that the students can no longer afford. Play time has been squeezed into smaller and smaller blocks until it has all but disappeared.

Besides recess at schools, the only other option is sending children out to play in the evenings. Since most of us do not have large houses with lawns and backyards, the only places left are roadsides or, for a lucky few, parks. But because of security problems, stories of abduction and worse, it is no longer either safe or sensible to send out children alone.

The only solution that is viable is for educators to realise themselves or be convinced by parents and healthcare professionals of the importance of play time. Schools are, for the most part, safe and friendly environments where children are not tempted by any screens and therefore, more likely to enjoy more traditional forms of entertainment.

Instead of being run as businesses that rely on impressive grades and statistics to lure more customers, schools need to go back to providing a public service just as they were meant to. This does not just producing a new crop of fresh graduates who can rattle off facts and figures with ease, at the end of every school year.

All around the world, people are beginning to question this single-minded approach to education and deciding that it should be a well-rounded, holistic experience that includes study and play time in somewhat equal measure. For the sake of our children’s wellbeing, we should do the same.