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STEVE BARTLETT: Get your kids to power down their devices and turn The Corner

['A child looks at an iPad in this file shot.']
['A child looks at an iPad in this file shot.']

I miss The Corner at the intersection of Carmen and Notre Dame.

My parents had a white fence there, along the western side of our yard.

At times, the top rung of the fence would buckle with the weight of 30 kids.

At times, the laughter from those youth sounded like there were 300 of them.

My parents never said a word, their patience and permission towards The Corner perhaps one of their greatest gifts to my younger sister and me.

We spent hours and hours there, playing spotlight, telling jokes, singing TV commercials, acting foolish, just being friends.

Usually, we’d play baseball at the Bliss Street sandlot all day and congregate on that white fence at night.

We’d be there until 10:30 or so, when a chorus of mothers and fathers would sing, “It’s time to come in.”

The hours were innocent. The life lesson immense.

The Corner taught us friendship and the beauty of just hanging out, absent of agenda or the need for money.

If I could time travel, one of the first stops would be a night on that white fence during the summer of 1980.

There’d be songs like ”Another Brick in the Wall,” talk of George Brett’s batting average, and attempts at solving a Rubik’s Cube.

We’d walk to Bellows Store or the New Lee Done Laundromat for a bag of ketchup chips.

And we’d need nothing else but each other.

It troubles me that many of today’s youth don’t seem to be having these experiences.

They don’t hang out on corners or fences or playgrounds or big trees.

At least I’m not seeing them in these places.

But I do see nieces, nephews and neighbours hanging out virtually, through apps such as Snapchat and video games like Fortnite.

They’re living and growing online.

While that might be fun, it’s not the real-world interaction of The Corner.

And that’s a big problem.

It’s not just me being a curmudgeon and saying this.

More and more research is showing that too much screen time is harmful for young people.

Just google “Kids and screen time” and you read some of the stuff you find.

Poorer activity in areas of the brain.

Addiction to “Likes.”

Increased depression.

Even suicidal thoughts.

That’s what researcher Jean Twenge has determined.

A recent study of hers had alarming findings.

Forty-eight per cent of teens who spent over five hours a day on their phones had thought about or made plans for suicide.

“These increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming,” Twenge told Forbes magazine.

“Teens are telling us they are struggling, and we need to take that very seriously.”

On a positive note, she found a lower risk of depression or suicide in youth more involved in things like sports, attending church, doing homework and socializing.

Which takes me back to The Corner.

Send your kids outside, tell them to hang out and enjoy other, to find their own comfortable white fence.

The real-world will be more magical and memorable than anything they’ve ever experienced online.

Steve Bartlett is an editor with SaltWire Network. He’d love to receive an email from Vince, a friend from The Corner he lost touch with. Vince, and you, can reach him at steve.bartlett@thetelegram.com.

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