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Nature Deficit Disorder, is a term invented by Richard Louv in his book called “Last Child in the Woods”. Louv writes that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Louv claims that causes for the phenomenon include parental fears, restricted access to natural areas, and the lure of the screen. Recent research has drawn a further contrast between the declining number of National Park visits in the United States and increasing consumption of electronic media by children.
Richard Louv spent 10 years traveling around the USA reporting and speaking to parents and children, in both rural and urban areas, about their experiences in nature. He argues that sensationalist media coverage and paranoid parents have literally “scared children straight out of the woods and fields,” while promoting a litigious culture of fear that favors “safe” regimented sports over imaginative play.
Parents are keeping children indoors in order to keep them safe from danger. Richard Louv believes we may be protecting children to such an extent that it has become a problem and disrupts the child’s ability to connect to nature. The parent’s growing fear of “stranger danger” that is heavily fueled by the media,  keeps children indoors and on the computer rather than outdoors exploring. Louv believes this may be the leading cause in nature deficit disorder as parents have a large amount of control and influence in their children’s lives.
Loss of natural surroundings in a child’s neighborhood and city. Many parks and nature preserves have restricted access and “do not walk off the trail” signs. Environmentalists and educators add to the restriction telling children “look don’t touch”. While they are protecting the natural environment Louv questions the cost of that protection on our children’s relationship with nature.
Increased draw to spend more time inside. With the advent of the computer, video games and television children have more and more reasons to stay inside, “The average American child spends 44 hours a week with electronic media”.
Children have limited respect to their immediate natural surroundings. Louv says the effects of nature deficit disorder on our children will be an even bigger problem in the future. “An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature …this has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the earth itself.”
Childhood obesity has become a growing problem. There have been multiple studies that show children who go outside more often exercise more.
Attention disorders and depression may develop. “It’s a problem because kids who don’t get nature-time seem more prone to anxiety, depression and attention-deficit problems.” Louv suggests that going outside and being in the quiet and calm can help greatly. Attention Restoration Theory develops this idea further, both in short term restoration of a person’s abilities, and the long term ability to cope with stress and adversity.
In an interview on Public School Insight, Louv stated some positive effects of treating nature deficit disorder, “everything from a positive effect on the attention span to stress reduction to creativity, cognitive development, and their sense of wonder and connection to the earth.” From Wiki.

October 30, 2009