If you’ve read or even heard of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, then you are probably aware that kids today have dramatically less time outdoors than they used to. Why is this an issue? Having less time outdoors — what Louv dubs “Nature Deficit Disorder” — contributes to a number of problems, from decreased imagination to reduced connection with the natural world. This isn’t just a problem for individuals. When we as a society raise generation after generation of children — tender saplings if you will — who are less and less in touch with nature, our society will have successively less interest in preserving the environment. And this potentially, and arguably, can have cataclysmic effects.
The National Wildlife Federation provides a sobering summary of key research findings on this topic:
* Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago.
* Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).
* In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own.
* Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration.
* Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.
* The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11.