Nature-Deficit Disorder (NDD) Causes, Consequences, Ways to Combat NDD
Created by Tanuja Sodhi Updated on Nov 26, 2019
“I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” ~ William Wordsworth
These lines sum up our childhood memories when gardens or open fields were an integral part of our growing up years. We would play in the mud, staring at a vibrant-hued butterfly fluttering around or just gaze at the bountiful night sky with its myriad stars. We could actually touch, smell, see and hear everything that our teachers taught us in class. I sometimes reminisce about our picnic jaunts with loaded snack baskets, eating while perched in the lap of nature after a satiating round of simple team games. This is what entertainment meant for us where a connect with nature was a daily dose without which life seemed unsustainable.
Cut to the present young generation- children have a compelling screen fixation. They sit for hours with their eyes riveted to television sets, gaming consoles, computer screens, i-pads, etc, oblivious to the mysteries of nature surrounding them.
Our Children are suffering from Nature-Deficit Disorder; they are under “virtual house arrest”, for hours at a time, “hooked into an electronic umbilical cord of today’s contemporary lifestyle”- yes, it is true and shocking! - Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods"
What Exactly is Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)?
It is a term postulated by Richard Louv, “A lack of routine contact with nature may result in stunted academic and developmental growth in this“plugged-in generation” of today. The nature-deficit disorder is however not a medical condition. But it signifies the consequences of alienation from nature which is affecting our children in a big way in today’s electronic age.
Causes Leading to Nature Deficit Disorder
Following are the causes of nature deficit disorder (NDD):
- The Lure of the Screen: There is a very strong urge amongst children to spend sedentary hours in front of some kind of a screen or the other. The call of the screen either it is of a television, computer, tablet, smart-phone or video game console, is so strong that it has turned many kids into screen-addicts who seem to be in need of serious psychological intervention.
- Stranger Danger: In these hazardous times, when safety is a serious issue and unnerving incidents are splashed all over the sensationalist media every single day, most parents are varied of taking their eyes off their children, keeping them indoors in the safety of closed doors. This growing stranger danger brings the kids closer to the screens and further alienates them from exploring nature.
- Vanishing Greens: The green belt is fast receding, giving way to boundless concrete jungles, ringing in a death knell for child-nature connect. The cities that once boasted of lush greenbelts have suffered drastic environmental erosion due to rapid urbanization.
So, even if parents want their children to play outdoors, they may be restricted by a lack of choice in their vicinity.
What If Child Disconnect with Nature?
Here are the consequences if a child or adult disconnect with nature. Read carefully...
- Indifference Towards Nature: Since the children don’t step outdoors as often as they should, they become apathetic towards their natural surroundings. They’re unable to evoke respect for nature and lose out big time on exploring the wonders of nature. They can more easily identify a whole slew of cartoon characters than the native plants and animals that live outside their front door.
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Depression & Distraction: These are the most plausible outcomes of NDD. Kids who don't get enough nature-time seem more prone to anxiety and depression. There is a lack of concentration in academics with fleeting attention spans and falling grades. When we step out to inhale the fresh air, endorphins (the feel-good hormones) are released in our body, helping us feel happy and refreshed. The lack of fresh air leads to depression, stress, and lethargy. [Read - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Symptoms, Causes & more]
- Childhood Obesity: Piling on excessive weight is yet another outcome of staying glued to the screen. Once they’re addicted to these techno-toys, they refuse to budge from the couch for hours at a stretch. This physical inactivity and mindless eating while staring at the screen, leads to weight gain. [Read - Childhood Obesity Risks, Causes, Ways to Measures & Prevent Obesity]
- Vitamin D Deficiency: This deficiency due to lack of exposure to sunshine is yet another unwanted side effect of Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD).It can lead to serious medical issues besides bone pain and muscle weakness if not addressed in time. [Read - 4 Ways to Boost Bone Loss Health(Osteoporosis)]
- Recluse, Risk and Creative deficit: A risk of turning into loners is a reality when a child does not interact with other children primarily because friendships are forged in the early years. There are a number of studies suggesting that connecting with nature enhances creativity as children are bound to be more curious by feeling the innate urge to unravel the innumerable big and small mysteries of nature.
Basically the lack of connection with the natural world can have a profound adverse impact on children’s mental and physical health, and general well being.
Perks You Can Offer of Being Nature’s Buddy
Regular run-ins with nature may help children in the following ways:
1. Unplugging and De-stressing: Nature is the best rehab center for children who are addicted to the new age gadget. Nature is a great balm that can calm down an anxious mind and body. Children can de-stress by listening to the chirping birds, by smelling the flowers, by feeling the wind and the heat of the sun. It is because nature fills us up with a lot of positivity by seeping through every cell of our bodies.
2. Engendering Mental, Physical health, and creativity: Soaking up on Sun will provide the much-needed vitamin D that is needed to synthesize calcium in our bodies and the outdoors help hone creativity in the children too. The keen power of observation that the children have activates the creative impulses.
3. Physical Health Improvement – When we stare at a screen constantly, there is a strain on eyes, whereas, when you step out into nature, our pupils contract the way muscles contract when we exercise. Our eyes can both focus on the ground in front of us and on the landscape around us, which is a great exercise for TV and monitor over-stimulated eyes while on the other hand breathing fresh air outdoors is very therapeutic for the body.
4. Augmenting Memory and Attention Span: It’s an accepted fact that if children spent an hour a day interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved considerably. By being amidst various hues of nature, kids can steer clear of depression as nature’s beauty is therapeutic. So, spending time amidst nature enhances cognitive development.
5. Making New Connections and Learning About Responsibility – When your child steps out the likelihood of making new friends is more. The child is bound to interact with a whole lot of other children with varied interests and different personalities. This healthy interaction helps boost confidence and communication skills that come in handy at every stage in their lives. The bond nature happens naturally and more often than not these children turn into adults who make their contribution towards saving the earth from degenerating.
How to Combat Nature-Deficit Disorder?
The following are the ways to combat nature deficit disorder. Read below
1. Encourage Go-Out and Play” - The solution to the woes of NDD lies right in our own backyards. There’s a lot of wisdom contained in that simple phrase, “go out and play”. So, encourage children to step out on a regular basis to play in natural surroundings rather than entertaining themselves at home.
2. Encourage Child for Camping, Excursions & more - Encouraging children to go camping during school vacations or participate in school-organized excursions is a great idea. In India, it’s perhaps a crucial time for NDD interventions with the rapid urbanization. Of the rare few, we found Youreka befitting, which organizes adventure camps for kids called Youreka Nature Campouts. They assure the little campers a powerful, invigorating and enduring learning experience that is designed in a completely safe environment in natural settings. If you go by parents’ testimonials, these experiences have often been life-changing for kids.
3. Encourage Child for Nature-walks -You could either involve all the family members or have your child’s friends accompany him/her with you as their guide. Encourage your child to maintain a nature journal where he could describe the animals and plants that he sees, through words and pictures. [Read more - Nature Walk Benefits, Things to Make Nature Walk Interesting]
Going outdoors is not only fun but also a liberating experience. It can change your child’s entire perspective on life. If you allow them to learn from nature, it is one of the best ways to imbibe many lessons about life, as nature is the most selfless teacher in the world. It offers its awe-inspiring bounty to all alike free of cost and without expecting anything in return. The most valuable lessons in science and humility are learned in the lap of nature. So, here’s to an NDD-free childhood!
Disclaimer - Youreka is advertising a brand on parentune!
| May 01, 2013
I appreciate this article and admit that it made a lot of sense to me. I remember during my childhood summer holidays going to the streams in my grandpa's farm, with my cousin, catching the fish in big bath towels, collecting the fish in glass bottles, and feeding them, further planting roses, climbing up cashew nut trees,... I cherish those days. Those days have developed an admiration in me for God's marvelous creation displayed in nature. I too had various gadgets from abroad and its addictions. It isolated me from others, and depressed me. Later it was only when I returned to Jesus, He saved me and restored me back to normal tracks of life. He brought balance to my relations; interaction with people, nature etc, thus I overcame addictions to gadgets. This is not to isolate the children completely from the gadget world. They should be exposed to necessary gadget world too, to keep them up to date of technical advancement. But parents should be a role for them and guide them to be balanced, thus save them from addictions. Sometimes these days while returning with children from school, I stop outside at garden with them and admire nature's beauty. Occasionally I take them out and spent quality time with them in gardens. Always the beautiful nature, stimulates my worship to God. Ultimately returning back to God Almighty brings us in harmony to ourselves, others and nature. In the Bible, in the letter of Paul to Romans (chapter1 verse 2) says" For since the creation of the world His (God's) invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead... " In the recent past I have observed the upbringing of some of my relatives' kids in the gadget rich home. But they lacked any link with nature, or with other relatives and friends, thus it has adversely affected their mental health. They can't even properly relate with other people. They are more skilled with chasing, plundering, looting, shooting, murdering etc on the screen. Personal interactions with siblings, friends, respect, love and care for family members have disappeared from their values. Somehow undue importance to gadgets are the in thing and mental illness too. Parents should have quality time with the children; having outings together to the lap of nature. Let's return to God and His beautiful creation, than our own creation of digital unreal world and false values.