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Children health and education suffering due to ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’

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Picture from: http://blog.mywonderfulworld.org/2009/07/five-for-friday-lets-go-explore.html

According to this BBC News article titled Nature deficit disorder ‘damaging Britain’s children,’ the British are noticing a change in the childhood experience.

Researchers from the National Trust are finding that the growing dissociation of children from the natural world and internment in the “cotton wool culture” of indoor parental guidance impairs their capacity to learn through experience. They cite several reasons for the decreased access to nature and child’s play outdoors: heavy traffic and fears that automobiles do not see children playing in the street, more focus on technology and toys that kids tend to play indoors with (internet, TV, other toys), and parental anxieties over crime and ‘stranger danger.’ Statistics found in the study show that the area where children are allowed to range unsupervised around their homes has shrunk by 90% since the 1970s.

Access to play outdoors or interactions with nature help children learn more effectively, and children themselves say their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors more than owning technology. This brings up some interesting questions: how much do we encourage children to play outdoors, and should parents (specifically city parents, as those who live in the suburbs have easier access to nature) be more involved in encouraging outside play despite their parental fears? How do we find a balance between safety and play?

Personally, I grew up in a suburb with lots of access to grass and ‘safer’ areas to play in, so I do not have a perspective of what a childhood in a city would be like. However, I feel that no matter where children live, its fundamental that they get access to play spaces outdoors because it helps them develop in ways that playing indoors can only pretend to replicate.

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