Nature Valley Asks 'Is the Age of Constant Digital Connection Changing Childhood?' in Sobering New Commercial

( [email protected] ) Sep 16, 2015 12:51 PM EDT

Popular granola company Nature Valley recently put out a sobering new video as part of its #rediscovernature campaign which begs the question: is the age of constant digital connection changing childhood?

In the video, an off-camera voice asks three generations of people the same question: "When you were young, what did you do for fun?"

Unsurprisingly, the elder two generations recall the good ol' days of enjoying nature, playing outside, fishing, and spending time with friends.

One elderly man recalls having a basket full of fish and seeing a black bear. If the bear started chasing him, the man said he thought he would "keep throwing the fish out of my basket until [the bear's] gorged and he won't bother me."

In a separate interview, a woman talks about building "massive forts ... the kind you can sit in" with her friends, and another elderly man remembers creating his own sledding toboggan that was "very slick and very fast."

In another interview, a man recalls how, as a child, he would go door-to-door and round up all the neighborhood kids and play "lots of games" such as hide-and-seek and baseball.

However, when the children are asked what they do for fun, their answers are drastically different. The children explain that they spend up to five hours a day texting, emailing, tweeting, browsing the computer, or playing video games.

One boy tells the camera, "Just last week, I watched 23 episodes of a TV series in less than four days."

Adds another boy, "I forget I'm in a house, that I have parents, that I have a sister, that I have a dog. I just think I'm in the video game. I completely get lost."

"I would die if I didn't have my tablet," a younger girl featured in the video says.

In the next scene, the children's parents and grandparents lament how the definition of "fun" has changed: "By the time they have kids, it's gonna be a really different environment," says one man.

"It makes me really sad, because I feel like he's missing what's out there in a beautiful world," a mother says of her son.

While ominous music plays in the background, the advertisement closes with the words: "Nature has always been a part of childhood. Let's make sure it doesn't stop with us."

The video seems to have struck a chord with viewers -- it's had over a million YouTube views, with many expressing dismay over its "chilling" and even "terrifying" content.

"Why did this video choke me up?" asks one blogger. "I'm fully aware of the money and time that goes into creating viral marketing, but that doesn't change the fact that this pulls at the heart strings. We're facing a real issue in our children's generation and this clip tells the emotional story through a handful of characters who, unsurprisingly, remind us of people we know."

Adds another man, "Don't blame technology. Why is it such a shock for these parents to see their kids statements? What are they doing that they don't notice their little girls faces buried in their phones for three hours or that their son is missing because he watched 23 episodes of a show in a few days? Parents need to be more involved in their kids lives. It's not like these video games and phones magically appeared in their children's hands."

While admitting Nature Valley has a point, others took issue with the Canada-based company's tactic of presenting a problem - and guilt tripping parents in the process - without offering a solution.

Writes AdWeek's Rebecca Cullers, "The tagline: 'Rediscover the joys of nature.' So, how is Nature Valley Canada helping people do that? Well, they've got a website that tells you where the national parks are, gives 10 suggestions for what to do in nature, and lets you donate to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. In other words: nothing, really."

She adds, "Of course, it's possible that changing the trajectory of the entire technological revolution is beyond the abilities of a granola company's Canadian marketing division. Which begs the question: Is it enough for a brand to stand for something, if it doesn't actually do anything?"