Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Nature Deficit Disorder: Get Those Kids Outdoors!

I was reading an article in U.S. News and World Reports tonight on why kids need to be outside and experience nature. It is based on a short interview with Robert Louv concerning his book "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder". In the interview we learn that "a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of 6.5 hours a day with electronic media" such as video games, ipods, computers, and television. Parents are also fearful of letting their kids outside.

He maintains that N.D.D. is not a medical diagnosis, it "describes the human costs of alienation from nature, including diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional sickness. Nature deficit can even change human behavior in cities. Long-standing studies show that the absence or inaccessibility of parks and open space is associated with high crime rates, depression, and other urban maladies." Wow that is a large price to pay for a child's inability or lack of opportunity to "play" in the trees!

Playing in nature can also fill a role in lessening some of the ailments that affect many children today. "Research is powerfully suggestive that there is a relationship between nature exposure and reduced symptoms of ADD, that lack of exposure plays a role in childhood obesity, and that time in nature can help quell symptoms of depression." Not only that outdoors play helps with "increased self-confidence, better body image, and cognitive benefits. Kids who spend more time outdoors tend to do better on testing; they do better on science; they tend to play more cooperatively."

I guess it is time to get children to turn off the electronics, open the doors to the outside world, and enjoy the fun of a childhood spent outdoors. Nothing could be simpler than that!

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