ROCHESTER, New York—Nature-deficit disorder—a disconnectedness from outdoor play—may have grave consequences for today’s often sedentary, over-protected youth, according to an interview in the current issue of the American Journal of Play with noted journalist Richard Louv (author of the best-selling Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder) and conservationist Cheryl Charles (who helped launch the Leave No Child Inside initiative along with Louv).
Louv, famous for coining the term “nature-deficit disorder,” says it is not a medical diagnosis, but rather a term to describe the human costs of alienation from nature: “These include diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.” Charles describes childhood today as “virtual, vicarious, electronic, passive, and cocooned.” According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, children spend about 50 hours a week on average with electronic media, and increasingly experience nature through computer or television screens without human interaction. In addition, many are restricted in their play by overprotective, well-intentioned parents. These problems cut across all settings—urban, suburban, and rural—worldwide, and across all income groups; they contribute to childhood obesity and increases in violent behavior and depression. Louv and Charles point to various studies that illustrate the negative physical and psychological impacts of being deprived of outdoor experiences and conclude with suggestions for reversing the trend including refitting school play areas that incorporate nature, community gardens, and encouraging parents to join family nature clubs. (See full article at www.journalofplay.org)
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