Most people can recall a time when children wanted to go outside and be physically active. Children are supposed to be doing stuff like riding bikes, playing in parks, jumping into mud puddles, and getting scraped knees. These days it feels like most kids are glued to their electronics. As far back as 2008, 65% of children aged 4-11 had at least two hours per day of “screen time” meaning they spent a minimum of 14 hours per week playing video games, watching television, or staring at any other electronic device; and these numbers have only increased since 2008.
The truth is evolving technologies have provided a virtual reality that’s easy for children (and adults) to get lost in, and in doing so miss out on the excitement and adventure of the real world. If you’re a parent that would like to see their child put down their electronics and get active, rock climbing might be a great way to do it. We argue that getting kids rock climbing is a fantastic way to get them off the couch and addicted to the real world, not just a virtual one.
Why is climbing an effective way to convince your child to get active and get outside? Because rock climbing shares some common ground with video games.
One of the reasons video games are popular is because of the leveling systems present in games. Humans enjoy participating in activities where improvement is easily measurable, so many gaming systems promote a reward system where players level up as they improve or spend more time playing. Humans receive a sense of fulfillment each time they “level up” and this feeling contributes to a desire to continue playing. Take a look around the next time you’re in a waiting room and you might notice a handful of people trying to beat just one more level of Candy Crush.
Now let’s take into consideration how rock climbers have unknowingly implemented their own leveling system. Currently rock climbs are rated on a scale of 5.1-5.15d and boulders are rated on a scale of V1 to V16. As a kid’s ability to climb improves they will notice themselves “leveling up.” Kids who are rock climbing a 5.6 are going to experience a huge sense of fulfillment when they climb their first 5.7, and that feeling of fulfillment is going to encourage them to keep climbing, get active, and stay active.
Children who don’t enjoy traditional sports or recreational activities might be more interested in an activity where they can easily and concretely measure their improvement, rock climbing can be that activity.
Video games can stimulate emotions that might be lacking in everyday life, most notably sensations of adventure and excitement. Climbing is a real life source for excitement! Kids that go rock climbing don’t have to settle for a simulations of adventure, they get to live it for real. Climbing is a new and fun sport for many kids, bringing out the inner adventurer that might otherwise be hidden. Adventure isn’t just for video games, and once kids feel this emotion in real life they will want to take part in real life adventure more often.
Not all video games have a teamwork aspect, but the most popular do. The most heavily played games in the world contain elements of teamwork and bonding. Humans are social creatures, we enjoy being a part of a larger group than just ourselves. On the surface climbing might not appear to be a team sport but in reality there is an important group dynamic always present in climbing.
While you can go bouldering by yourself or tie into the auto-belays at the gym without a partner, climbing is generally a group activity. If you’re out bouldering there are almost always people watching and cheering (even if they’re just encouraging strangers). If you’re out doing some traditional or sport climbing, you have at least one climbing partner out with you. Most climbers can testify to the strong friendships they’ve formed with their climbing partners over the years.
There are many kids (and adults) that are not fond of traditional sports, this is the case for a majority of rock climbers. Climbing is a great team activity for people that might not be drawn to conventional athletics. Rather than relying on video games for feeling like they are part of a group or team, the local climbing gym or crag could be the home of your child’s wolf pack. With summer camps and kid’s rock climbing teams becoming more common, it’s easier than ever for children to become involved.
Obviously there are a number of factors that turn children (and adults) into couch potatoes. Electronic devices have become more available to children in the past few years, and increasingly more games or apps are being marketed to children. There’s nothing wrong with playing some games or watching a little television, but many parents want to see their children expand their horizons and become more physically active.
We have highlighted three primary reasons for why children and adults are attracted to electronic entertainment:
Hopefully we’ve proven that rock climbing holds these same types of appeal as video games, with all the added benefits that come with physical activity and exposure to the real world. Don’t get stuck in a virtual world, when there is a real one waiting outside. Getting your kid climbing is just one way to get them off the couch and in touch with exciting real world experiences. Once your child gets a taste for climbing they may also be more inclined to get involved in a variety of other outdoor adventures.
Looking for where to start with a climbing program? Check out our Climbing Teams page for info on the best program for your child.
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