The United Kingdom’s National Trust released a report saying children are losing contact with nature at a “dramatic” rate, causing their health and education to suffer.

The Natural Childhood Report (pdf) exhibits the symptoms of a modern phenomenon known as “Nature Deficit Disorder”. The phrase was coined by author Richard Louv in 2005. Louv argued that “the human cost of alienation from nature” was evident in the “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”

TV and computers screens, traffic, stranger danger and parental anxieties are among the reasons why children stay indoors. The report argues “there is too much at stake here simply to accept the situation as an inevitable consequence of modernity. We must dig deeper…”

While the report does reveal that this is a hot-button issue discussed in many forms all around the world, there is little that has been done to counteract technology’s effect on childhood.

“Yet despite all the heat generated by this debate, in some ways little has actually been achieved. For while we may all agree that ‘something needs to be done’, there has been a conspicuous lack of coordinated action to reverse the trend and reconnect our children with nature once again.”

The report’s writers are optimistic and say we may be at a tipping point. With the help of from virtually everyone involved with children; professionals, parents, etc. they have the means, motive and opportunity.

The report states that the growing dissociation of children fro the natural world impairs their capacity to learn through experience.

It cites evidence showing that:

  • children learn more and behave better when lessons are conducted outdoors
  • symptoms of children diagnosed with ADHD improve when they are exposed to nature
  • children say their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors more than owning technology.

The National Trust is studying what the disorder is costing its residents, why it’s difficult to reverse and what must be done to eliminate it before it presents these statements and question to the nation.

*Update, to see how educators are combating the affliction, read here about “place-based education.”

Photo: Lars Plougmann (flickr)

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  1. I work at a state park in Colorado.  After reading your “Nature Deficit Disorder” article, I had to cheer.  You hit the nail on the head.  These kids need to get out and experience the natural world.  It is shocking how little some kids know about nature.  My job here is to make sure that they learn.  I conduct free summer camps for kids, ranger talks to teach things like fishing, wildlife identification, what to do if you are confronted by wildlife, etc. We are so worried about a proper education for our children, giving them every technological item they see, but we forget the most valuable, free, important thing they need.  Fresh air and sunshine! 

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