A travel trend we are all experiencing continues to advance: many kids in the U.S. are now growing up with virtually no experience of nature and the outdoors.
There is a growing burden on travel journalists and parents to address this reality.
Many modern kids have no joy in nature and have had very little experience of nature in any way.
The issue is addressed today in the San Francisco Chronicle in an article “Nature Deficit Disorder,” which one could find on sfgate.com, but there are many such articles afloat.
One kid, interviewed at a mall, stated the position of many, “I’d rather be at the mall because you can enjoy yourself walking around looking at stuff as opposed to the woods.” When asked about Yosemite, he added, “The only things you look at is the trees, grass, and sky.”
Today’s child has a clear focus on electronic games and media rather than the outdoors. The Kaiser Family Foundation has studied this and says an average kid 8-18 spends about 6.5 hours a day with electronic media.
Another aspect of this situation is that new immigrant populations don’t have the outdoors as part of their family pleasure legacy. This is particularly true of many Hispanic and Asian groups. Getting out to enjoy nature has not been part of their family heritages.
When nature and the outdoors do figure into the electronic news, it is often a negative sensational threat and risk. Stories about lost hikers, bear encounters, and mountain lion attacks spread fear rather than offer enticement.
There will be consequences as today’s kids grow up. Will they vote to fund protection and support of the great outdoors? If they’ve never had a good experience outdoors, they won’t be part of the constituency of support.
There are clearly some opportunities here for all of us–parents, grandparents, and travel journalists–to address this issue, in our families, communities, and media. The enhancement, alerting young people to the joy nature, needs to occur one kid at a time.