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What’s ailing today’s kids?: Indooritis

Kids hardly climb trees anymore. They barely ever make mud pies or play hide-and-seek in what’s left of Florida’s orange groves.

On average, a kid in this country will spend a couple of hours a day outside. For perspective, though, they will spend more than 7.5 hours a day on electronic gadgets like smart phones, TVs and computers.

They also don’t know squat about the outdoors. One study of 800 advanced high school biology students showed 86 percent couldn’t identify three out of 10 common plants.

Author Richard Louv, who coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder” in his book “Last Child in the Woods” a few years ago, is dogging America to get off our duffs and out the door.

While his arguments are convincing, the ones about health should get everyone’s attention whether you’re a nature-lover or not. His latest book, “The Nature Principle,” challenges adults to make it a priority. I hope we’re listening. Richard Louv has one of the most important messages for the world today.

Doctors should pass out directions to the nearest kayak rental shop or prescriptions for nature walks for their day-to-day patients. Hospitals may consider information kiosks on ecotourism instead of the overload on all the sickness info. Studies show over and over positive connections between health and getting outdoors. Why aren’t we pushing this?

One group of researchers discovered that hospital patients in rooms with views of trees not only had shorter stays, but needed less pain medicine and left fewer negative comments about the nurses.

I think everyone knows that sunlight assists with fighting depression, but I have to wonder about the opposite: What’s the effect of all the hours of electronic stimulation on depressive tendencies in teens and children? I’m not one to demonize all electronics of every sort, but 7.5 hours a day compared to 2 for outdoors? Really?

The technology is changing so fast and it’s gotten so prolific that even as a journalist I’m shocked. A friend told me of her 2 1/2-year-old niece, who is fully capable of grabbing the I-phone and navigating the “Apps,” finding what she wants, and playing with the phone for long periods of time.

They don’t climb trees anymore. They spend hours on the electronics.

They are sedentary and they have weight issues at an alarming rate. They are scared of bugs and grass if it touches their ankles. They text-message as fast as they can think. They type with their thumbs faster than you can with all your fingers.

Today’s young people have a lot of problems on their shoulders, left by the generations that came before them. I hope they listen to Richard Louv and start going outside a lot more than they do now.

That’s where they might just find the answers to all that will ever plague them.

–Kumari Kelly is a licensed massage therapist and independent journalist.

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