“When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?”
Nature Valley posed this question to three generations of “real families” in a hard-hitting commercial that aired in 2015 and has worked its way back into the viral video rotation on Facebook.
In response to the question, grandmas and grandpas offer endearing tales of blueberry picking and fishing. Moms and dads share their stories of playing street hockey and fort building outdoors. And then - cue the record scratch - today’s generation of children are asked the same question.
Their response? A jolting unanimous vote for video games.
In the commercial, one teenaged boy even shares, “Whenever I feel upset, I play video games, and I feel normal. It’s really wonderful!” In viewing his response (on a tablet nonetheless), the boy’s mom and grandfather wipe tears from their eyes. You can see it on their faces, and the sorrow seems to seep through the screen to us guilt-ridden parents who are watching in awe through our own devices.
The message is received loud and clear: we, as a generation, are failing our children.
Just when you think you’ve lost all hope in humankind, the final words glow across the screen against the background of a young boy gallivanting gleefully through the woods: “Nature has always been a part of childhood. Let’s make sure it doesn’t stop with us.”
Great marketing, but an even greater message.
When I first watched the ad, I immediately felt guilty. I wondered to myself:Is that what my children would say if asked the same question? Am I letting them have too much screen time, and more dreadfully, are they sharing this reality with others?
I was surprised by the reactions of other viewers when scrolling through the comment thread of the shared video. While I had assumed that other parents would react similarly, some of the viewers seemed to have completely missed the message.
“It's not even safe for children to be playing outside and doing the fun physical things that other generations had the opportunity to do. This generation will become more and more isolated,” expresses one woman in a recent comment, totally off base and misinformed on the safety stats of today.
“There were only three or four TV channels back then, and there was nothing else to do. Now there are so many, they don't have to play outside!” shared another commenter, obviously the result of a screen-raised generation.
I know it’s just a well-crafted ad, but it serves as a great reminder. Not that our children have become helpless, tech-addicted robots, but that we, as the parents, need to regain control. It’s time to take away the screens and send them outside to play.
I think that special connection with nature that many of us had experienced as children still exists today, it’s just that as parents, we’ve been presented with more obstacles to face, that have hindered our efforts in keeping that connection strong for our kids.
There are great benefits that come with technology, but it has also become all-consuming - not only for our kids, but for us as parents, too. We need to remember to unplug and put more effort into nurturing that much-needed connection with nature. For our kids, and for ourselves.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor and marketing consultant. Find her online at @bitsofbee.