A week-long series on the changing face of childhood
Ask almost anyone over 35, in any part of the country, and they will invariably remember spending their childhoods in the same place: outside.
Every day. All day. From morning until dusk, returning home only "when the streetlights came on," recalls Ashley Donahue, 38, from Roanoke, Va.
Yet few kids today are able to experience nature that way.
In only a generation, kids have stopped spending most of their playtime outdoors. It's one of the most profound changes in the history of childhood, says pediatrician Harvey Karp, a board member of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group.
"It's the end of thousands of years of normal childhood," Karp says.
Of course, there's a lot less nature left these days. More people live in cities than in the countryside now, says Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.
But the biggest barrier to getting kids outside is fear, Louv says.
Beginning in the 1980s, sensational stories of child abductions and molestations created the widespread myth that predators were lurking around every corner, he says. At the same time, street crime and drug-related violence led many urban parents to bring their children indoors.
In truth, 78% of abductions are committed by family members, not strangers, says the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And the rate of violent crime against…
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