have spawned efforts in this country and around the globe
to reconnect children and families with the outdoors.
“High crime rates are real in some neighborhoods, but
not most,” he said. “Though there has been a recent
uptick, the actual rate of violent crime has been declining for the past 35 years. But we pulled indoors.”
The results for the health of children raised under what
he calls “protective childhood arrest” have not been good.
So while there is some risk of falling out of trees when
kids play outdoors — which remains part of its attraction, Louv mused — staying inside to watch TV or play
often violent computer games has given us a generation of inactive kids. The result has been rising rates of
childhood obesity with all the problems of diabetes and
heart disease that come even during childhood or later.
So Louv railed against poorly designed neighborhoods
with few parks, fear of boogeymen and seductive technology. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation
study, he said American kids now spend a whopping
54 hours a week plugged into some kind of electronic
medium. Their parents are probably as bad or worse, he
said, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for other activities.
“Not only are there risks to kids’ health by keeping them
inside, but it also hurts their ability to socialize outside
the home,” he said. “Ultimately, I believe, there is even
a risk to democracy. In order to care about nature, the
environment and your neighbors, you need to step outdoors. Too often, people just get in their cars in their
garages and drive off down the street, never even getting
to know who lives next to them.”
Even team sports have come in for criticism by Louv,
who notes that the greatest increase in childhood obesity occurred during the same two decades as the largest
increase in organized sports for children in our history.
While that doesn’t mean that organized sports are causing obesity, he said exercising for only a few hours isn’t
helping to the extent that we think it is.
Many Americans (Europeans, Chinese and Brazilians,
too) have gotten the message and created programs to
get kids outside again. They have names like “Every
American kids now spend a whopping 54 hours a week
plugged into some kind of electronic medium.