How to Be a Digital Citizen Outside


It's heartbreaking to see a young person (or anyone for that matter) missing the wonders of a beautiful day because they are gazing down into a smartphone. So when my friend Michele Whiteaker, founder of FunOrangeCountyParks.com and co-founder of NaturePlayTrips.com asked me to collaborate with her a couple years ago on answering the question, “How can one be a good digital citizen outdoors?,” I jumped at the chance. As two moms who make our livings largely from behind our computers, but who are also crazy for the outdoors, this was right up our respective alleys. Inevitably, children are bringing their devices to public parks and nature spaces without knowing basic etiquette or what it means to be a good digital citizen outdoors. With this in mind, we came up with these eight guidelines to help young people (and their parents!) find a healthy balance between tech and nature:

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Research before, share after.

The time to use technology to enhance your nature experience is before you go and after you get back. Michele calls this strategy “bookending.” Of course it’s okay to make some time and space to snap a few photos while you’re out, but otherwise turn that selfie stick into a walking stick, put your smartphone in your pocket and be present in your nature experience.

Let why be your guide.

Always ask yourself if you NEED to be connected (Are you blogging to inspire others? Keeping a nature photo album? Telling a story? Doing research? “Collecting” flora and fauna through photographs? Navigating your way around?) If the answer is “no” – then put away your tech time for later and enjoy the moment.