Children left to their own devices used to be a red flag for parents and educators.
What mischief would youngsters get up to if they weren't kept busy with schoolwork or organised sport?
The original debates in our Parliament about compulsory education included the argument that schooling would keep the urchins off the streets.
Nowadays being "left to their own devices" tends to mean young people are off into cyberspace with their smartphones and other electronic gadgetry.
Many emerge from the gates after school in the head-stooped posture as they reconnect to the new "real world".
We can't judge youngsters for using the technology being put into their hands by adults but I think many of us are wary of the future impacts.
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Designed by profit-driven companies, smartphones and the apps they run are designed to be addictive and they sure are.
At the same time, ever-busy adults are seduced by the relief that comes when otherwise boisterous kids are sedated as they disappear into cyberworld entertainment.
Some parents demand screen-free time but many are just grateful for the quiet.
Before smart-devices we became the nation of people calling ourselves Kiwis and partial to wearing the silver fern.
Our national iconography still celebrates our environment because of its uniqueness and character.
Earlier generations chose natural inspiration in tribal names, like Ngati Pukeko or, symbols like the fern leaf stamped into export butter, because of the strong connection people had to nature.
But how does the connection to our life-sustaining ecosystems fare today?
How often do our young people play in ferny gullies or listen to the songs of our native birds?
Will the generation growing today have the knowledge and appreciation of what we still have, or had, to help them make the right environmental decisions in the future?
I am not totally pessimistic because there are glimmers of hope.
Certainly, getting into the natural world has recognised benefits for all ages.
Forest bathing or, "shinrin yoku" as the Japanese call it, has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.
Beyond that there are tantalising studies about plants emitting 'phytoncides' which when inhaled contribute to the immune system's activity.
Inspiration and a creativity boost also flow from natural world time which helps explain the growing interest in eco-schooling and visits to our wonderful eco-sanctuaries like Bushy Park.
Children will always delight in the appearance of a bold bird or what appears in a net dipped into a wetland.
Time is needed for all the senses to absorb the green world with its business and patterns but this is what our eyes are adapted for.
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That bluish light lingering in bedrooms late at night, disrupting our circadian sleep rhythm, is a potent symptom of alienation from nature but we have the antidote in more nature time.
I am thrilled that Bushy Park/ Tarapuruhi has gained the financial support to employ me part-time as an educator this year.
Bushy Park has never looked better. Countless volunteer hours and the ongoing rebound of nature since possums and rats were given the boot present us with the beautiful mantle of Tane's forest backed up by revitalised facilities.
Rare native birdlife is thriving and even geckos are re-appearing out of the woodwork.
We enjoy the ongoing support of community and schools so we can put more of our super natural heritage back into the souls of people of all ages.
I think Bushy Park will always be a healing as well as educational place as good as any 'mainland island' in the country.
Must be time for your next visit!
•Keith Beautrais is the Bushy Park Educator.