An X-factor winner, two BBC Autumnwatch presenters and Arsenal and England football legend have thrown their weight behind the newly-formed Wild Network campaign to encourage the nation’s parents to swap their kids’ screen time for wild time.
The Wild Network, which was launched in late September, today reached a milestone of 1,000 member organisations – all pledging to encourage kids to play outside more and reconnect with the natural world on our doorsteps .
JB Gill from the band JLS, Michaela Strachan, Chris Packham and Ian Wright have joined hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals to become part of a movement to reconnect kids with nature and outdoor play.
Farmer and member of JLS JB Gill said: “I love Project Wild Thing! It is so important for kids to get outside and learn about an environment which should NOT be alien to them.
“Whether it is farming or camping, walking or mountain climbing all of these things provide essential experiences to children and gives them a broader perspective on life that watching the same thing on a screen is unable to do.”
Other high profile figures that have given their support to the Wild Network include:
naturalist and TV presenter Nick Baker, ITV countrywise presenter Liz Bonnin
Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury, ONE Show presenter and naturalist Mike Dilger,
presenter and campaigner Philippa Forrester, broadcaster, naturalist and President of The Wildlife Trusts, Simon King, RSPB president and ONE Show presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff, author and Booker Prize Chair Robert MacFarlane and anatomist, author and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts.
TV Presenter and Naturalist, Chris Packham, said: “The love that fuels a lifetimes interest in wild things comes from the heart not the hard drive and what ignites it is contact.
“The tickle of tadpoles on the palm of a tiny hand , the surprising shriek of an urban fox or the smell of a wet woodland on a misty morning , all free , all still available , all just around your corner . Please don’t deny your children a taste of wildlife.”
Autumnwatch presenter Michaela Strachan added: “How are we going to get the next generation to care about the environment if they’re so disconnected from it? The day that children only make virtual sandcastles on Wii, play football against a cyber player on X box, only see wildlife on documentaries and You Tube, will be a very very sad day.
“Children need to smell, taste, feel and experience the outdoors. They need to get dirty, take risks, be free to imagine. My generation, the parent generation, are the ones who can make this change.”
The Wild Network campaign encouraging the nation’s parents to swap thirty minutes of their children’s daily screen time for wild time was launched in late October – thousands have signed the pledge. This came on the back of the cinema release of an important new documentary film – ‘Project Wild Thing’ .
Shown in more than seventy cinemas across the UK and available to download, ‘Project Wild Thing’ takes a funny and moving look at one of the most complex issues of the age – the increasingly fragile link between children and nature.
Filmmaker and father of two, David Bond sets himself the task of getting his daughter and son off the sofa and outdoors. Appointing himself as the Marketing Director for Nature he wants his brand and free wonder product – nature – to stand out from the crowd of brands competing for their attention.
Children are spending on average four and a half hours every day looking at screens  and with the arrival of the £49 tablet computer in time for Christmas , it’s likely that this figure will continue to rise.
New research is demonstrating the impact of too much screen time and an inactive lifestyle on the health and wellbeing of children.
Researchers at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board have found that more than two thirds of primary school children are suffering from back and neck pain because of too much screen time .
A study by University College London has shown that the increasingly sedentary lifestyles that children are leading is increasing their resting heart rates with a potentially serious knock on impact on their health later in life .
The Chief Medical Officer in England Professor Dame Sally Davies has even raised the prospect of a return of rickets as children have a lack of vitamin D, the best source of which is sunshine .
Andy Simpson, Chair of the Wild Network, commented: “The response to Project Wild Thing and the creation of the Wild Network has been huge. This clearly shows the passion and commitment of people and organisations to the cause of reconnecting kids with nature and now is the time for us to work together to make this happen.”
The Wild Network was launched on the 25 September this year. One thousand organisations and thousands of individuals, have come together to create a movement whose aim is to reconnect kids with nature and outdoor play. Details on how to get involved can be found here – http://projectwildthing.com/thewildnetwork and you can also see a list of organisations involved at http://projectwildthing.com/organisations. Members include the Woodland Trust, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, RSPB, Play England, Scouts Association, Swarm, AMVBDDO, Fields in Trust and the NHS Sustainable Development Unit.
Details of where ‘Project Wild Thing’ is being shown in cinemas, how to download the film and information about the DVD release on the 9 December is available from http://projectwildthing.com/film