“Technology is not, in itself, the enemy; but our lack of balance is lethal. The pandemic of inactivity is one result. Sitting is the new smoking.” Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Richard Louv, in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, used the phrase “nature deficit disorder” to decribe what has happened as children spend more time in front of screens and less time outside. The idea refers to the costs of the alienation of humans, primarily children, from nature.
Is it a real disorder?
That the majority of children spend little time outside is real. The change from how children spent time only decades ago is real. There is research, Louv points out, that finds a correlation between concentration and taking walks, between greener neighborhoods and lower body mass. The change in body and mind is real.
The word “disorder” might imply a diagnosis, though, and there is none. The author chose that word to make his point simply understandable.
Do I need to worry about nature deficit disorder?
Maybe. If your child is young, your awareness that our culture pushes children indoors can help you make decisions that will give your children more access to nature. If your child is young, you can probably avoid the problem.
Encouraging your child to go outside will get more and more difficult as they get older. Create the expectation of open, outdoor play now, and the habit will be easier to continue. Model outdoor activities yourself, so it doesn’t appear to your child that outdoors is just for young children.
The truth is, you probably do need to worry about it because the pressure will increase to stay inside—peer pressure, homework pressure, and plain laziness. Remain conscious of outdoor time and prioritize nature in your family life, and you will reduce the negative effects of spending too little time in nature.