According to the Family Online Safety Institute, young people spent an average of 6.5 hours with media on a daily basis - including TV, radio and the Internet - back in 2004. Today, that figure is up to 10.75 hours per day. Moreover, according to Fast Food Stats, more than 50,000,000 people in the U.S. rely on fast food each year. These are stats that worry Bolontzakis, author of the children's book Summer: The Magic Blanket.
"We are a media-saturated, drive-through society, and it worries me that some kids never know what it is to go to a park, experience nature or just spend time with their parents that doesn't involve being shuttled between school and soccer practice," she said. "Time and money are the two resources most busy parents don't have in abundance, but they operate on the mistaken belief that those elements are necessary to spend quality time with their children. It's just not so."
Bolontzakis believes that the best things in life we can offer our kids take little time, and cost nothing.
"I am blessed, because I had a near perfect childhood, despite the lack of perfect circumstances," she said. "My parent's were very simple people with limited means and life was hard like it is today for many families. My parents did their very best to make my life happy with simple things. They focused on the seasons of the year, and they used their imagination to make every season count by showing me how nature's cycles relate to the lives we live. They didn't need to take me to Disney World or fly me around the world to do it, and if they could do it, any parent can. It's free."
Her world as a child wasn't cluttered with technology or the fast pace of life today. Instead, it was filled with lessons about how our lives are intertwined with nature.
"Nature has its cycles, just as people's lives have theirs," she added. "In nature, there is a time for the bringing of new life, as in the spring, and there is an autumn that sees it fade. There is a time for rest and renewal as taught to us by the animals that hibernate in the winter, as there is a time for abundance and growth in the summer. Our lives are tied directly to our planet, and each of the seasons we experience help teach us those lessons of love, generosity, patience and even forgiveness. We just need to be open to those lessons, and open our children's minds to them, as well."
Turn it off!
Her message to parents is to take whatever time they can to turn off the TV, shut down the computer, leave the cell phones turned off and open their children's eyes to a world that spun quite well on its axis long before any of those mediums existed - and will continue to spin well after they are all obsolete.
"You don't have to travel the world to get away from it all," she said. "Even in the most urban of areas, there are parks and zoos and bike trails that are all off the beaten path," she said. "Sometimes it's enough just to get outside, away from the video games and the computer, and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin as you read a book under a shady tree. When I think about my childhood, I get a warm amazing feeling that includes, joy, contentment and freedom, and I want all children to have the same. Children don't need more things, bigger things or better things. They need love and attention. They need to slow down and see the more important things that are all around."
Children's book and cookbook author Litsa Bolontzakis is an expert on Greek cooking and that culture's easy, simple way of life. Her desire is to help other families learn from her culture how to appreciate the simple things in life and grow to enjoy the seasons and the gifts they bring.
Posted May 26, 2011