When nature-deficit disorder was first coined by author Richard Louv in "Last Child in the Woods," Louv looked at causes for thee decline in outdoor time in a child's life.
Louv, an accomplished journalist and best-selling author, cited reasons such as parental concerns about safety, overscheduled children, or a lack of access to green space. All disincentives to heading outdoors.
Over a decade since "Last Child" was published, much has changed in childhood. In fact, the top reason why kids stay indoors isn't really a disincentive. It's an incentive to staying inside.
In a landscape dotted with screens everywhere our gaze falls, what role do devices play in keeping kids inside? Turns out, a lot.
Organizations have been concerned about an indoor childhood for some time. They have asked parents for their reasons. According to a survey of 2,600 parents commissioned by National Wildlife Federation, technology topped the list of reasons why kids are not getting outdoors. One Norwegian study, 'Why do children not play in nearby nature?' surveyed over 3000 parents of children aged 6–12 years. The researchers found that "the shift of media practices has undoubtedly contributed to the fact that outdoor spaces have lost much of their appeal as attractive playscapes for children and young people'.
That statement bears repeating: Nature as a playscape was unattractive to children.
Parents reported that their children spent so much time on screens that to be outside is downgraded.
The downgrading of nature is not confined to urban and suburban kids. A study in the journal “Environment and Behavior” found that rural children are also spending more time in front of screens than in nature. The researchers surveyed 543 sixth- to eighth-grade students across rural South Carolina. According to the survey, screen time was higher than outdoor time for almost every demographic group that the researchers examined.
If this phenomenon has reached rural children—kids who would typically wander through fields, fish in creeks or spend a summer evening catching fireflies—is there any hope? There is—but we have to do something about it now.