Nature deficit disorder: is it having a detrimental effect on kids today?

I only finished my A Levels back in June but they already feel like a world ago after beginning at university. I never thought that I’d say this but I do miss Sixth Form. My interests in ecology and conservation are content now, but I miss the analysing of books and learning about the English language that I did in my English lessons. My teachers were brilliant and I really do miss the excuse to write as part of a lesson.

However, even though I enjoyed it immensely, I got an average grade C at the end of Year 13. I was pleased with this but I didn’t feel as though it justified my passion for writing and the English language. Whilst doing my A Levels, I also did another subject which classed as half an A Level (an AS Level) known as an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). This was completed through the school and every A Level student got the opportunity to complete it if they wished. The final grade either contributed towards UCAS points or appealed to the universities you applied for.

I grasped this opportunity. It was an excuse to do a written project of 5,000 words on whatever subject that I wanted to. Compared to the C I got in English, I managed to achieve an A* in my EPQ. For my study, I looked at nature deficit disorder and its effects on children. Nature deficit disorder is a term used to describe the disconnection from nature that children and adults have developed in recent years. I explored in detail what nature deficit disorder is, the relationship between NDD and children, comparisons to previous generations, the consequences of NDD, the causes and what are the solutions.

I don’t use this word often, but I was quite proud with what I produced. As a result, I have decided to publish it on my blog for others to read. Since I submitted it to the exam board, I also decided to go back over it in my own time and add some extra detail and content.

An EPQ takes the form of a dissertation and the subject should relate to a course of study or future career.  As I have stated, my study was on nature deficit disorder. To begin with, I researched the term nature deficit disorder and where it originates from. It was by American author, Richard Louv, with the publication of the book ‘Last Child in the Woods’. Louv’s book was a key tool when researching and very inspiring.

It was then a case of exploring evidence of the relationship between NDD and children today. What I found was as I expected, a strong link which clearly presented that NDD is common amongst today’s young generations. I was curious to work out when this relationship began to occur so I looked at the generation gap between children and their parents, and the amount of time they both spent outside when they were of the same age. It was clear that a child’s freedom to roam natural areas has decreased compared to their parent’s generation and they are spending notably less time outdoors.

Although I was certain why this was the case, I had to find evidence to support why this was. The most reoccurring reason was due to the uprising of the ‘screen-based life’ with easy access and affordability of indoor gaming and activities to children of all backgrounds. The appeal of such activities is strong for children and young people, and parents are choosing to allow them to do so. It seems that this is convenient for parents as they can keep a watchful eye over their child’s activities and ensure that they are safe. The influence of wide-spread news coverage and the media is to blame for this as it is alarming parents of stranger-danger. However, there are many positive impacts that allowing a child to explore can have.

By which I mean, NDD is impacting upon children’s lives in numerous way. This includes its impacts on mental health, like depression and anxiety, and physical health, such as obesity as children are simply choosing to spend more time indoors which means less exercise. Outdoor activities can also be used as therapy for mental health and for those children who suffer with ADHD. A human’s nature is to spend time outside, this relates back to our earliest ancestors. Due to these consequences, it seems humans are struggling to respond to the quick change of spending less time outside. This links to something I researched called the Biophilia Hypothesis, which is the instinctive bond between humans and nature. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this. The whole process of being deep into research at times during was study was very exciting and satisfying.

Finally, I looked at solutions to reverse NDD. In the UK, there is a lack of enthusiasm from the government regarding environmental education and very little appears on the curriculum. However, the work and idea of Forest Schools is very positive. This was something that I explore in my study. I compared the British schooling system to one of the best in the world, the Finnish approach. Finland’s education success is evident and they have a large focus on outdoor education and allowing children to be more relaxed within a classroom environment with less homework, more time outside and not starting school until the age of 7. They allow their children to play and enjoy a pressure-free childhood.

Doing the project was very interesting and I enjoyed it immensely. It was perhaps one of my favourite parts of Sixth Form. My findings were very concerning as NDD is a clear issue and it is seemingly not being taken seriously by the government or the media as little is being done to reverse it. What I also find interesting is the link between NDD and environmental destruction due to our loss of interest for wild places. My conclusion is that schools are the way forward and the attitude of the government and the media at presenting environmental issues and showcasing it as something that is important needs to improve dramatically,

If you would like to read my study on nature deficit disorder, you can do so here – Nature deficit disorder – Georgia Locock

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