9 Hours On Screens: Group Helps Teens Get Outdoors

The average teenager spends 9 hours a day consuming media on a screen, a recent study cites. Yikes.


The statistic, from a report by Common Sense Media, is disturbing to say the least. That kind of stat is the driving force behind the newfound Merrell Campus Ambassador Program by Outdoor Nation.

Outdoor Nation is a not-for-profit organization designed to “empower young leaders to champion the outdoors” in their communities. This month, the organization selected 13 students from colleges across the country to jumpstart the Merrell Campus Ambassador Program. Each one is charged with the task of helping peers engage in outdoor experiences and reduce their dependence on screens.

We talked to a few of the new ambassadors, including Forrest Kozlowski from the University of Wisconsin and Casey Dunphy from Clemson University, and brainstormed ideas to help encourage and push young people from elementary school through college age to get excited about the outdoors.

1. Put Down Your Phone, Look Around Outside

Because of the alarming statistics about excessive phone and screen usage, the program encourages young people to form a healthy relationship between the outdoors and their phones/screens.


2. Social Media Spreads Outdoors Gospel

Sure, screens can be a part of the problem. But they can also be part of the solution. A major application requirement for this Ambassador Program was a strong social media following and influence. The idea is that the ambassadors will utilize social media to get the word out about outdoor events and clinics on their campus.

3. Make It Fun

Hard-core outdoors-people often focus on challenging objectives. Remember to introduce children to the outdoors in fun, engaging ways. Short hikes, animal identification, picnics and group games can get kids involved. For teenagers or college-age adults, ideas from the ambassadors range from snowshoeing at night to outdoor film festivals, local or national ski trips, and day hikes.

4. Show Your Passion

A grownup (or parent’s) passion will trickle down to kids and maybe even college students. Reveal your love for the outdoors and the people who know you will provide some immediate motivation to perk up, listen, and maybe give an activity a try.

Exploring A Cave

5. Outdoors As Fitness

Many kids are into team sports, and many kids train or exercise in gyms. Bring someone trail running, mountain biking, or any number of “gateway” outdoor activities to ignite the spark.

6. Urban Outdoors

You don’t need to roam into deep wilderness. Most metro areas have bits of nature, woodsy paths, lakeside trails, or any number of venues that make getting into the outdoors easy.

Hiking in North Carolina

7. Tips From College Students To College Students

Take advantage of rec programs at universities, as they often rent gear and bikes to students and have classes to attend. Additionally, be unique with your routine by studying and eating outside, going for a lunchtime run, and hanging out with friends on a hike.

8. Get Involved In ‘Outdoor Nation’

Since 2010, Outdoor Nation has supported more than 1,500 campus and community activities, involving nearly 286,000 influential young people across the country. Activities include climbing, hiking, surfing, paddling, biking, and more. This particular Outdoor Nation program is run entirely by the campus ambassadors themselves to allow for more organic and real outdoor interactions with their peers.

Merrell is giving the ambassadors $1,000 to put together activities for the semester and is providing an additional $1,000 to benefit the campus outdoor programs. The brand will also outfit each ambassador head to toe with Merrell gear and will be providing giveaways for them to use and leverage at activities and clinics (college students love free stuff).

The program is open ended, with the only requirements being to plan and host two on-campus clinics and two outdoor activities, such as day hikes or bike rides.

The 2016 Merrell College Outdoor Ambassadors:

  • Alex Valladares, Texas Woman’s University, Texas Vicinity (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri)
  • Jacob Hardin, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Gulf South (Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas)
  • Noa Kattler Kupetz, Barnard College/Columbia University, New York Vicinity (New York, New Jersey)
  • Ulemj Enkhbold, Washington and Lee University, Mid-Atlantic (Virginia, West Virginia, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania)
  • Mallory Reese, Brigham Young University, Rockies (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming)
  • Tristan O’Mara, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington State
  • Forrest Koslowski, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Nebraska)
  • Casey Dunphy, Clemson University, Southeast (South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida)
  • Jair Cruikshank, University of Massachusetts Amherst, New England (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Main, Rhode Island)
  • Ben Swank, University of Redlands, Southern Cali/Arizona
  • Rachel Curtin, California State University Chico, Northern Cali/Nevada
  • Nina Oishi, Lewis & Clark College, Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Idaho, Montana)
  • Madison Lavern, University of Kentucky, Michigan Vicinity (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky)