Friday, April 29, 2005
Xboxed in: Does your child have 'nature-deficit disorder'?
Richard Louv (a San Diego Union-Tribune columnist) has been studying children's experiences with the natural world, and has concluded that technology, parental worry, and hyperscheduled activities are cultivating "nature-deficit disorder" in children:
He came up with the term, he said, to describe an environmental ennui flowing from children's fixation on artificial entertainment rather than natural wonders. Those who are obsessed with computer games or are driven from sport to sport, he maintains, miss the restorative effects that come with the nimbler bodies, broader minds and sharper senses that are developed during random running-around at the relative edges of civilization.
It's an interesting article, but the most troubling section comes at the end:
Mr. Louv refers to parents' abduction fears as "the bogeyman syndrome." But he suggests that the more likely bogeymen are people who "criminalize" outdoor play through neighborhood associations and their covenants. His own neighborhood's residents' association, he said, is known to go around tearing down tree houses.
"If all these covenants and regulations were enforced, then playing outdoors would be illegal," Mr. Louv said.
And to let a child loiter is almost unthinkable, said Hal Espen, the editor of Outside magazine in Santa Fe, N.M. "The ability to just wander around is a much more fraught and anxiety-prone proposition these days," he said. "There's a lot of social zoning to go along with the urban zoning."
For Ms. Herzog, the fitness director, the local schoolyard has become the latest casualty. It was fenced off recently for security: a "lockdown," she called it. "That doesn't allow active play on the school grounds" during off hours, Ms. Herzog said. "It's not getting any easier."
None of this was part of my 1970s childhood in Orem, Utah, where a mob of us kids was usually rushing around from one yard to the next, launching dirt-clod wars in our unfinished subdivision, or playing football in the front yard of the church. Even when we moved to Eugene, Oregon, in 1982, my parents let my brother and me ride our bikes along the river to the planetarium or to the mall. Although I know I spent a lot of time in front of a TV or computer screen (Commodore Pet, anyone?), my childhood memories are full of outdoor adventures in a lower- to middle-class neighborhood.
Do herds of children still run free? What's it like in your neck of the woods?
P.S. Despite tomorrow's rainy forecast, the Boston-area Liberal Religious Bloggers & Readers Picnic at the social hall of the First Parish in Milton — details here — will step away from the pixelated glow of the computer screen for real-live human company and as much nature as nature lets us enjoy. If we had scheduled it for today, just think of the outdoor games we could play!
("Growing Up Denatured," Bradford McKee, New York Times 4.28.05, reg req'd)
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 29 April 2005 at 8:29 AM