Help! My Kids Don't Want to Go Outside

After four months of near-confinement in a two-bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Shruti Kapoor, who runs a nonprofit organization for women in India, noticed that her 4-year-old daughter, Diya, lost any desire to leave the house, seeming to prefer time with her parents.

“Whenever I asked her, she said she was never afraid, she was just comfortable at home,” Ms. Kapoor, 42, said. “But there was a very clear point where she was itching her body, or scratching her face, like she was nervous or anxious. I think it was about being cooped up, and a lack of engagement.”

That was also the experience of Adam Craniotes, 48, a magazine editor in New York.

After a temporary stay in Connecticut last spring, where his children Paul, 13, and Lola, 11, happily ventured out on hikes in the woods or to go crabbing at the beach, they returned to New York City in June where his children were confronted with new and alarming urban protocols: only their mother, Liz Chen, wearing disposable rubber gloves, was permitted to push elevator buttons; visits to their grandmother uptown were hug-free, and everyone had to wear masks, even indoors.

“It was like pulling teeth to get Paul and Lola to leave our apartment for, well, anything,” Mr. Craniotes, 48, said. “They were only too happy to binge-watch Netflix and Disney+ and FaceTime with their friends, or Paul’s case, play online video games.”

No wonder. In games like Roblox, which has seen a surge of interest among tweens and pre-tweens during the pandemic, children can explore the great cities, throw raucous parties, and start garage bands in a colorful world where everything seems free (except, of course, when those eye-popping in-app purchases show up on their parents’ credit card statements).

Compare that to the world of shuttered libraries, movie theaters and gyms that exists outside their bedroom windows.