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gailcalled's avatar

What's your position on the reality that kids' lives are too organized and they don't get outside enough to watch the frogs or plant a garden?

Asked by gailcalled (53636 points ) August 1st, 2009

It’s called Nature Deficient Disorder and has some compelling arguments against narcissism, competitiveness and overprogramming in the young.

My youth was filled with building tree houses, hiding in snow drifts or piles of raked leaves, playing one-a-cat with a tennis ball and stick and giggling over “Sardines.” We had plenty of time for school sports, too, but no electronic gadgets. What think you?

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42 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

I have been hearing about this Nature Deficient Disorder

It is hardly a new idea, but the number of kids who no longer do much of this in increasing incrementally, to the detriment of the kids.

ctferrarajr's avatar

I am 16 right now and live in a fairly active neighborhood. I see the kids 4–11 running and playing outside almost everyday. While it may not be traditional ‘playing with frogs’ its more like playing on their motorbike and airsoft guns. None the less though they are out and about. This is more then I can say for myself, as I have recently become very absobed in all sorts of gadgetry.

One thing tat I think combatst this very well, and I do and have been doing for 11 years, is the Boy Scout program. Once a month we go out camping of rock climbing of white water rafting ect. It is an excellent way to get away from it all and give you a lot of skills in the process. In face, this week we will be going away to summer camp where we will cook, clean, and feed ourselves using only small outdoor sheephearders stoves and living in tents. While there we do things such as swimming in lakes and C.O.P.E. Corses, and nature hikes. If you have children I highly recommend getting them involved in boy scouts as it provides them with great self sufficiency later in life.

gailcalled's avatar

There is, apparently, a widely-known correlation between the epidemic of youthful obesity and the spurt of organized sports, leagues, competition, etc.

casheroo's avatar

It saddens me. I talk to my husband about this, for our children (well, I didn’t know it had a name) And we both don’t see the need for all these gadgets, but then we think to when we were young and there was always that “must have” thing…more like pogs, or certain bikes..not a gadget that keeps children isolated. And we think about not giving in to such demands, but then our children would be the ones completely “behind the times” even though they’re actually just being children.
I’m probably all over the map with this, I’m sorry.

I try to expose my son to a lot of outdoorsy things. We go to parks, I don’t mind playing with frogs or salamanders…he’t not into bugs yet, thank god. I want to keep him happy with the simple things until he’s old enough to want to be like the other kids. I mean, I’m sure we’ll have game consoles, but so did I as a child but it wasn’t a main priority, playing outside for hours was. Never see that anymore.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I agree. Kids today are too tied to electronic trappings. I work in a library (am at work right now) & kids have been in here all summer playing games on the computers. I just want to say “Go outside. Find something to do. Go to the pool. Go ride bikes to the dredge ditch. Go mow an elderly person’s yard. Go do SOMETHING!” We act as babysitters in here. In the winter, they’re not out playing in the snow. They don’t build snowmen, build forts, nothing. Parents are so anxious to get their kids out of the house instead of teaching them to do chores. It’s sad.

cyn's avatar

I’m pretty much activated (16). I usually go to school, the mall, play sports, go camping/beach with my family/friends, go outside to get fresh air and stuff, play with BonBon(my dog). But it is sad that many kids stay home almost everytime. Parents should make them be involved and encourage them to go around(play) or be in some active activity.

nebule's avatar

Even though my back garden is small I have a raised bed and a greenhouse which I encourage my son to help with.He loves watering plants and going for walks to feed the ducks. We do lots of things in nature. But he also loves his computer time. I don’t see anything wrong with encouraging both of aspects of their character as long as it is just that.

He is actually quite a whiz at computer games and painting on the computer as well as sports and shows interest in all things that I do…cooking, planting, washing up, computers, cleaning. I’m a firm believer in what they see they do. You have to practice what you want to preach and also find the balance between the things that they love.

theichibun's avatar

1 – If you look hard enough there is a disorder for everything.
2 – Kids these days can do things that older generations wouldn’t have been able to do. It’s a giant balancing act with things like this.
3 – I blame the adults more than the kids. Adults buy the gadgets, instill the fear of dirt, and don’t let kids be outside as much without supervision. Some of this is warranted, most of it isn’t.

DominicX's avatar

Just because you have electronic gadgets does not mean you can’t have an appreciation for the outdoors. It’s up to the parents to instill that in the kids. I love biking, hiking, gardening, going to Golden Gate Park, and just being outside in general. I also love electronic gadgets and have an iPhone and a laptop and all that jazz. My parents have gadgets as well. My parents always tried to instill an appreciation for the outdoors since they themselves had one; it seemed to work. Obviously, I live in a city of 800,000 people and it’s not the same. I can’t just go and wander out to the creek and catch polliwogs; there isn’t room for that here. But there are plenty of things you can do outside here and there are plenty of other places you can go to. (I’m actually in Las Vegas right now, which is better, but it’s also scorching hot and since it’s a desert, not much tree-covered land to be in. I grew up here).

Also, I was never put in all those activities and such. My neighbor is a mom of kids aged 10–16 and basically if she is sitting down doing nothing, her life is useless. She needs to constantly be involved in something and thus her kids do too; they’re in all kinds of sports and activities and never have any time to just be at home. I don’t think that’s the best idea, either.

Believe me, I wanted to go hiking at Huddart Park and my friends were basically afraid of the idea (not all of them, of course; I have friends that are more outdoorsy than I am), but I was just saddened. Whereas, this group of nerdy kids at my school who do robotics and take all AP classes and get straight A’s were organizing a hike at Huddart Park. And they did it. Didn’t see that one coming…lol

But I also know plenty of people who go to summer camps that are very outdoorsy. These are people who spend most of their day on Facebook and on their iPhones. So, how do you explain that one?

FrogOnFire's avatar

Great question! Could not agree more. A few months ago, I was camping and I had a revelation that technology was the cause of unhappiness in my life.

Where I live (on the fringes of the Chicago area so there’s plenty of open space to play), all the little kids will play Wii or Nintendo DS all day. The only time they spend outside is for school sports, which is competition and not really fun. I live on a lake and I’ll ask my little brother if he wants to go fishing or boating, but no, he just wants to play Wii or Watch TV all day.

In high school, I see a similar effect: people overload their schedules with AP classes and school sports. When they do have free time, it’s all Facebook or XBOX live, and the only “outdoor play” they seem to have is smoking pot in the forest.

It’s not like I haven’t been guilty of letting technology take over my life sometimes (I design web sites as a hobby so its sort of a given), but I try to control it.

@ctferrarajr I also can vouch for the Boy Scout program. As an “outdoorsy” person, I look forward the the trips every month. In my area, the program is so strong we frequently have some troop members who are now college students coming back from college to go on trips. Spending two weeks in the wilderness at their summer camp, I physically felt the best ever in my life. Being 3 weeks away from Eagle Scout, I am very happy with my experience with the BSA.

MissAusten's avatar

My kids love the Wii, the Nintendo DS, and the digital cable as much as any other kids. I’m sure they’d sit and do those things all day if I let them (in fact, two of them are sick and have been laying around doing nothing today). In our area, parents seem to think that unless a kid is going to at least three different outside-school activities, the kid is deprived. I get funny looks when I’m asked what sports my kids play or what lessons they take, and I say “None right now.” We offer, they aren’t interested.

Anyway, since it’s summer I’ll share our summer routine. I spend part of each morning doing some things around the house. The kids get to sit around in their pjs, eat a lazy breakfast, and play indoors (if the actually get themselves dressed they can go outside but must stay in the yard). By midmorning, I make sure they get themselves in gear, turn off the TV or whatever they happen to be doing that involves electricity, and we do things. Run around the yard or the field behind our yard, go hiking, go swimming, hit the beach, go to a museum, something like that. Bad weather means legos, painting, board games, building living room forts, or whatever else they come up with. Usually by the time I start dinner, they’re ready for some downtime and I’ll let them plug back in while I make dinner, but just as often they are perfectly happy to stay outside.

They are encouraged to get dirty and touch bugs, frogs, or snakes. Jumping in mud puddles is essential. They help me garden, but seem to have inherited my lack of ability to keep plants alive. The only thing I wish they could do is run around the neighborhood with other kids, but the houses near us don’t have kids. Sometimes my nieghbor’s grandkids visit, and they will come over to play on the playset with my kids.

I do think a lot of kids are overscheduled, and many parents could stand to find a balance between structured, organized fun and just plain old fashioned fun. Now, I have to go help my son catch some flies to feed the praying mantis he caught earlier. There’s nothing like watching one creature eat another to promote family bonding!

gailcalled's avatar

Milo here: I certainly don’t have NDD. After being stuck inside for three days due to incredible rain, I just caught my 21st mouse since July 4th. Once I check my email, I’ll have a nap under one of the deck chairs.

FrogOnFire's avatar

@MissAusten Wow. It’d be great if all parents were like you, actually spending time with their kids and also not being obsessed with making their kids “have the edge” over all the others, by enrolling them 50329043284 after school activities.

People ask me all the time, “So what (high school) sports are you doing?” And I answer, “none right now.” They seem shocked and I can tell they sort of think its a crime in their mind. But I play golf for fun multiple times per week, I go fishing, camp, and hike frequently. Last year, I climbed Mt. St. Helens and the year before, I went on a 66 mile backpacking trip, but, no, hiking isn’t an organized sport so it doesn’t count as exercise.

DominicX's avatar

@FrogOnFire

I know what you mean. I played track in high school because I liked it. It was fun and it was easy, but it wasn’t a “big” sport and so no one thought of it as being terribly interesting. The majority of my guy friends played football or basketball and I sometimes felt left out. :( Luckily I found that going to games and cheering was just as enjoyable. :P

galileogirl's avatar

There are a couple of things that feed into this. First there used to be a lot of stay at home moms, In my neighborhood in the 50’s my mother was the only one who worked and we had a ‘grandmotherly’ caregiver.

A lot of kids today have day care and organized programs with other kids from all over town, not necessarily the neighbor kids. A lot of kids come home to an empty house and are forbidden to go out and play either because they might misbehave or the boogeyman might get them, ergo electronic entertainment,

We also watch too much television and video way too early. It is wrong to use TV as a babysitter. PBS tells us their children’s programming is meant to be viewed by kids and parents but that isn;t what happens. We used to watch cartoons on Saturday until the parents got their 1st cup of coffee. Today there are several 24 hour children;s channels.

After our parents were ready to go we either went out to play with the neighbor kids or we helped our parents with chores. Everybody helped clean house, changing beds, dusting, polishing, washing windows and the car, vacuuming and mopping, doing laundry, ironing, yardwork, shopping, and a lot of other things. OK you young jellies, they weren’t exploiting child labor, they were teaching us to be adults-which is the purpose of childhood.

We weren’t wrapped in cotton, we did things that might be dangerous or damaging. We went onto construction sites and took off for hours. I remember a truckload of sand dumped on a vacant lot. We dug tunnels for days until there was a story in the paper about a kid getting smothered when a sand pile collapsed. One summer I was catching in a ball game and my brother pulled back on the bat and cracked me in the middle of my forehead, I skated head first into a metal pole and biked down a grassy hill and ended up head first in a tree-no helmets. Are kids today given pogo sticks and stilts to develop physical balance and peaceful competition-too dangerous. Parents didn’t jump into children’s spats so we learned how to work things out. Well maybe the Cheyney parents did but we know how that worked out.

Kids need less scheduling and more opportunities for exploration; less entertainment and more learning life skills. Then we will have fewer 30 yo’s still trying to find themselves.

MissAusten's avatar

@FrogOnFire Parental bragging alert! My kids have all the naturally-occuring edge they need. There are days when I think to myself, “If only they were slightly less intelligent, my life would be so much easier.” hahaha I forgot to mention that they aren’t totally activity-free. They each do a week of day camp in the summer, my daughter is in Girl Scouts and Odyssey of the Mind, and my 5 year old has asked to sign up for fall soccer. My four year old, since watching too many Michael Jackson videos recently, has been asking for dance lessons. I’m waiting for an opportune moment to spring that on my husband.

ctferrarajr's avatar

@FrogOnFire I am also getting close to getting my eagle scout rank. I am repairing a camping shelter at the local reservation. what are you doing?

DominicX's avatar

@MissAusten

See, that’s what I think should happen. Activities should be ones that the kids themselves are expressing interest in; they should be the ones choosing the activities; activities should be shaped around the interests of the kids. Too often parents just force their kids to do activities and they’re not even interested. I remember my neighbor’s kid (who’s 10) was being pressured by his own coach to continue even though he didn’t want to and he was crying over it. That shouldn’t happen.

@galileogirl

Couldn’t the economy be blamed for the lower amount of stay-at-home parents (not necessarily moms)? I mean, obviously, some parents just want to work, but sometimes it’s more necessary for both parents to work to support their kids. In my situation, my mom said that she had wanted to be an at-home mom when she was a teenager. And that’s what she ended up doing. She doesn’t work for pay, but she was super-involved in the schools, PTA president and room parent for years and all that. But it was all volunteer work.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I was raised around animals and nature and it saddens me that a lot of children of today don’t get to experience nature in the way that I did. As a child I spent every moment possible running around with the dogs, playing with worms/insects, “helping” on the farm etc. It seems to me that, nowadays, a lot of people are too scared to let children interact with nature because of germs. I can not remember ever getting sick as a child but my brother who is more used to city life and slightly more shettled against nature than I was is quite sickly (not drastically but more so than I have ever been!).

I’m only 23 years old but all of a sudden I feel very old!

FrogOnFire's avatar

@ctferrarajr I added a bunch of improvements (bridge, trail signs, etc) to these horse trails for special needs people..I turn 18 in three weeks so that was cutting it a little close

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’ve noticed that most children’s “play” revolves around adults extending their own childhood. Kids don’t play sports unless it’s on a team, or involves instruction, camps, or coaching—run by adults. Many children aren’t at home after school but in a structured atmosphere where everything must be put away at the end of the day, leaving everything “clean.” At home, play’s fine as long as it doesn’t create a “mess”. Kids get toys that do one specific thing. Even prized lego sets seem to be models that make only one thing, and once put together, it sits on a shelf, gathering dust.

ctferrarajr's avatar

@FrogOnFire one of my friends came so close to not getting his. he was doing a project for the town and never got proper approval so they held an emergancy town meeting the night before his 18th birthday. he got it.

FrogOnFire's avatar

@ctferrarajr That’s crazy. Sounds like some people I know, though.

galileogirl's avatar

@DominicX I lean toward the theory that rampant consumerism and the idea that stay at home moms are unfullfilled, When my daughter was about 3 my husband started hinting that I should take a paying job. I pointed out that the cost of a better wardrobe, transportation, childcare and more prepared food (I was a scratch cook and made some of our clothes) and the loss of my occasional babysitting income was not only a financial loss but meant more work for me (housework was ‘woman’s’ work) and strangers would be raising our child.

Many women go to work to pay for a bigger house, a second car, and a more lavish lifestyle. When I hear about mom,s going to work to pay for private school I am just astonished. An hour after dinner and a couple of days a month volunteering at school makes up for any educational shortfall. And stay at home mom’s eyes and ears can make the whole community better.

Do the math and accomodate the needs not the wants and you will find two working class parents is not cost effective.

MissAusten's avatar

@PandoraBoxx I am totally with you on the legos. My youngest kid is obsessed with them, but luckily my mother in law kept all her kids’ legos in a tub in the attic. We do get those sets for the kids for birthdays or Christmas, but the kids always end up taking them apart and turning them into other things. We have one lego ship that is still assembled, and I give it another two days before it’s in pieces. Anyone who wants just a big pile of assorted legos can buy them by the pound on ebay for a very reasonable cost. That’s what I would do if we weren’t already swimming in the darn things.

Darwin's avatar

I have always tried to expose my kids to all sorts of activities, some organized and some not. My theory is that you won’t know what you like to do when you are an adult unless you’ve tried all sorts of stuff when you were a kid. My other theory is that if you don’t end up with some scars then you didn’t have enough fun when you were a kid.

I was a naturalist by inclination and by training, so my kids have had a number of days where we talked about the snakes we see in our yard, watched birds, went on hikes, or just hung out in nature. My kids have gone camping with me and with various Scout groups, they have been the the Boy Scout mecca (Philmont) and loved it, and they go to sleep away camp of one sort or another frequently. They both have bicycles and are encouraged to use them, which they do. They also have participated in various organized sports and both have computers, cell phones and internet access. We have one television which we watch as a family. And I am still picking up Legos from odd parts of the house. And screwdrivers (my son can never put away the screwdrivers).

Now my kids are in their teens they are more aware of what they like to do. My daughter loves being active, whether in team sports or running marathons. She loves to hike but isn’t fond of camping unless there are hot showers and flush toilets. She enjoys being with other people in groups and likes reading fantasy. She wants to be a doctor and does well in science. She has a huge number of friends and about 5 or 6 really close friends. When she is bored she will go for a run or hop on her bike.

My son would rather be on the computer all day, but he does enjoy SCUBA diving and rides his bike a lot. He is a hands-on learner so doesn’t do terribly well in school. He hates sweating so his favorite form of exercise is swimming. I suspect that eventually he may be an excellent cook, while my daughter won’t be. When he is bored he wants to go on the computer or watch television or go to a show or take something apart (I have a whole collection of dead lawnmowers and weed eaters that he fiddles with).

They are different from me and from each other, but I made sure they both know what all is out there. Now it is up to them to pick what they will do.

Facade's avatar

I remember wanting to play outside when I was little, but I either didn’t have time or couldn’t because of a medication. From the age of 6 to the age of 12 I was on a schedule. Wake up, go to school, the bus dropped me at the gym, 4 hours later I was home doing homework, then went to bed. Friends were on the back burner as was fun. Thankfully we had recess outside, but other than that things were very structured. To this day, I’m not really an outside person.
I think kids today have more of a variety of activities. It’s up to the parents to keep a balance between technology and “nature.”

Ivan's avatar

When I was a kid, any sentence that started with the phrase “kids these days…” was automatically discredited in my mind. This thread brought back a lot of those feelings.

This “rock and roll” is corrupting our youth. I wish they would just get outside and shoot rabbits and oppress blacks.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@DominicX You’re a rare breed, hon. More kids need to think like you do.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@casheroo when your son gets an interest in bugs, do I have a deal for you!

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Leanne1986—don’t worry about it, I’m twice your age and then some, so I feel positively ancient. =) I grew up in a rural environment too and it was the best time of my life. Bugs, frogs, snakes, wading in the creek, splashing in a pond, climbing trees, riding bicycles down country roads, etc.

As for the worry about germs, feh, I don’t know how much dirt I ate as a kid, and how much water I drank out of the creek because it was all that was available, and I’m still alive. Without a few germs for our immune system to fight, we are unable to fight off the simplest of infections.

DominicX's avatar

@Leanne1986

Well, we can’t all live in the rural areas.

gailcalled's avatar

Nicolas Kristof discusses this very issue as an op-ed piece in today’s NY Times.

It is entitled, How to Lick a Slug.

I hope the last paragraph will tempt you to read the article.

“Oh, and the slug? Time was, most kids knew that if you licked the underside of a banana slug, your tongue went numb. Better that than have them numb their senses staying cooped up inside.”

Richard Louv (author of “Last Child in the Woods,”) is the coiner of NDD, I believe.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@DominicX I agree but that doesn’t mean that parents have to wrap their kids in cotton wool. When I was 11 years old my parents moved us to a town away from the country side but we were still encouraged to play outside as much as possible. There are ways to experience the great outdoors and nature (and I don’t mean sitting in front of the TV and watching a nature documentary) even if you don’t live in a rural area and even if you live in the middle of a city, where it is safe to do so, surely playing outside as much as possible is better for a child than being couped up indoors in front of a playstation?!

DominicX's avatar

@Leanne1986

Exactly. I spend plenty of time outdoors and so do many people I know. I was just trying to discourage the stereotype that city kids never get outside because that’s not true and I’ve lived in cities of more than 500,000 people my whole life.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@DominicX That’s great to hear :)

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know if I have a position on this. I just wanted to describe how my children differ on this. My son is very observant in nature. He sees so many things I don’t see. It’s amazing! As if he has his eye on the ground and on the sky at the same time. He sees bugs on the ground and hawks in the air. He likes to climb trees and go bat watching on our roof. He loves wandering around in the woods and learning the names of things. On the other hand, he is not fond of reading and writing.

My daughter is so different in this way. She loves reading and writing, and is constantly using the internet to communicate with her friends and to find videos of interest. She is getting into video blogging (under a pseudonym). Again, as compared to my son, she is not at all interested in physical activity. She doesn’t like sports or riding a bike. She can turn cartwheels and she enjoys dancing, but I think, for her, physical activity makes sense only in the context of socializing.

Frankly, I’d like to see my daughter take more of an interest in physical and outdoor activities, and I’d like my son to take more of an interest in reading and writing.

gailcalled's avatar

@daloon: I guess that suggesting that your daughter lick the underside of a banana slug is not helpful; and I bet that your son has already tried it.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve never seen a banana slug here. I wonder what my boy would do if I did suggest it. LOL.

MissAusten's avatar

I know one of my sons would do it. The other, probably not. My daughter would sit back and wait to see the effects on her brother, and then make a decision based on that outcome. I don’t think we have banana slugs around here either, but I’m going to look it up right now just in case.

DominicX's avatar

In 6th grade, we all went to a camp for a week during the school year in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We had an opportunity to kiss a banana slug and I was one of like two people in my group who refused to do it…lol. Looking back, I wish I would’ve done it. :P

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i think it’s true and sad. i don’t even go outside often, and i hardly have a reason to. is the internet that interesting? no. is it always that hot out? well, not always…i think kids should definitely get out more. myself included.

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