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Nature-deficit Disorder and Children

“Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities.”

Nature-deficit disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv, is not a medical term. Instead, it is a simple, easy-to-understand description of the current state of our children and society. Mr. Louv discusses the fact that children are being affected by the loss of exposure to the natural world in his book Last Child in the Woods. Despite the fact that he wrote the book in 2008, it is fascinating to read about the trends he saw and how they are becoming a reality.

At the time of publication, the World Health Organization was warning that "sedentary lifestyle is a global public health concern." According to CDC data from 2015-2016, obesity prevalence among children and teenagers aged 2 to 19 years was 18.5%. That number rose to 19.3% and affected 14.4 million children in 2017-2018.

Are you surprised by this? I am not surprised, but I am concerned. We are currently dealing with multiple closures caused by Covid 19. As a result, schools are closed, leaving students at home to try and complete their homework, and parents are not allowing their children to play with others in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus. Family time is not spent doing things together, instead families use their electronics to pass the time. The amount of time spent on the phone, in front of the computer, and watching television is increasing. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children ages 8-12 in the United States spend an average of 4-6 hours a day using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours.

To me, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. I admit that I spend most of my day working at the computer. But I also admit that I watch television at night to unwind. Could I do better? Absolutely. When Natural Connections Academy starts the academic year in August, my days of sitting in front of the computer will be over (or at least, drastically reduced) as I will spend every day outside with my students. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that. My students they will be getting exercise, creating meaningful outdoor experiences, and fostering connections with nature that will help them in so many ways. We will be fighting Nature-deficit disorder every day, with excitement and smiles!

I would suggest reading the book Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. It is a real eye opener and makes a multitude of excellent points.

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