Published on Medium.com on January 21, 2020
In 2008, I was a new mom in Mount Shasta, California. Richard Louv’s recently published book Last Child in the Woods created a shockwave in the environmental community. Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder,” which reflected the fact children were spending 50% fewer hours outdoors than previous generations. As the nation’s largest conservation organization, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) was taking a hard look at technology’s impacts on children. They asked me to help. I drafted a report “Connecting Today’s Kids with Nature: A Policy Action Plan.”
In 2008, data indicated that kids spent 6.5 hours a day connected to technology. The peer-reviewed science also concluded that unstructured outdoor play reduces anxiety, increases concentration, and supports overall fitness. NWF believed that federal agencies, states, and local communities needed to step up. Policies could help secure safe places for kids to play, promote environmental education, and ensure that kids played outside. Parents also needed to put down their cellphones and go outside with their kids. Back then, I had two young children. As an environmental lawyer and avid hiker, I was keenly interested in my Gen Zers and their relationship to nature.
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