Are our children now suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder?

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Children today have grown up with computers, mobile phones, gaming consoles, and all kinds of technological devices that keep them indoors and wired up to electronics. Is this causing them to suffer from a kind of Nature Deficit Disorder?

According to Richard Louv, author of the award winning book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, our kids are missing out on a whole range of social and developmental benefits from exposure to the wilderness and are suffering from psychological symptoms as a result.

Louv reckons that the symptoms of Nature Deficit Disorder, which incidentally is a term he coined himself, includes depression, hyperactivity, loneliness and boredom and that getting closer to nature is a natural Ritalin for treating kids with hyperactivity problems.

It’s true; many children today living in flats and in cities, don’t get the same contact with nature as those who have been brought up in the countryside. Kids are spending more time indoors than they ever did before and just about everything they learn about nature is from a computer or television screen.

Louv was explaining in a recent interview with journalist Natasha Mitchell on the Australian radio programme “All in the Mind” that nature can come in many different forms for a child.

“A newborn calf; a pet that lives and dies; a worn path through the woods; a fort nested in stinging nettles; a damp, mysterious edge of a vacant lot.

“Whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Unlike television, nature does not steal time, it amplifies it.

“Nature offers healing for a child living in a destructive family or neighbourhood. It serves as a blank slate upon which a child draws and reinterprets the culture’s fantasies.

“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualisation and the full use of the senses. Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion.

“Nature can frighten a child, too, and this fright serves a purpose. In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace” said Louv.

When he puts it like that it does seem as if our children are missing out and therefore future generations will suffer too.

Louv is now actively trying to encourage families and their kids to get back in touch with nature and is the co-founder and Chairman of Children and Nature Network USA.

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