The NDD epidemic: Are your kids at risk?

Have you ever noticed your kids’ behaviour seems to improve in fresh air?

It’s not your imagination. Studies have been showing the effect of “nature deficit disorder” for years. But under conditions of lockdown, the full impact has really hit home. Literally.

“Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection,”  child advocacy expert Richard Louv told The New York Times

Research reported in The Conversation showed 82% of parents said that their children’s screen time has increased during lockdown, and 30% said that their children were having an extra four hours or more of non-school related screen time per day. 

The resulting “displacement effect” from that increase, say experts, means kids are spending less and less time doing everything else: especially getting outside to play, explore and get their hands dirty.

Why nature matters

Louv’s 2016 book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, examined the growing body of research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

Our digital kids are the smartest generation that has ever lived. But there’s no doubt about it, says Louv. They need to get out more.

“A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rainforest—but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move,” he observes.


“Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear—to ignore.” He cites the example of a TV ad featuring an SUV racing along a sublime mountain stream “while in the backseat two children watch a movie on a flip-down video screen, oblivious to the landscape and water beyond the windows.”

The cost of NDD

Studies have begun to calculate the steep costs of a radically de-natured, screen-centric childhood.  “As young people spend less of their lives in natural surroundings,” Louv explains,

“their senses narrow, both physiologically and psychologically.”

Research has shown that even small changes, like adding greenery to schoolyards, can improve children’s behaviour dramatically, encouraging more generosity and cooperation. Simply viewing nature scenes has been shown to reduce stress.

Recent studies conducted at the University of Illinois have demonstrated that access to green space decreases aggression, increases focus and even boosts the immune system. 


Tips for parents

But knowing all this - as most of us do in our bones - doesn’t solve the problem. The challenge for parents remains. Sure, switching off the screens for an hour or two is a good start. But then what?

Louv recommends:

Pick a “sit spot” 

Invite your child to find a special place in nature, whether under a tree, on the banks of the river or next to a favourite plant in the garden - and to spend time there at different hours of the day. “Know it by day; know it by night; know it in the rain and in the snow, in the depth of winter and in the heat of summer,” advises nature educator Jon Young, “Know the birds that live there, know the trees they live in. Get to know these things as if they were your relatives.”

Go backyard camping

Turn your own backyard into a campsite with a tent you buy or borrow - or just set up a teepee with a blanket and sticks. Cook camping treats like s’mores and billy tea over a (supervised!) open fire or barbecue. Play “spotlight” when the sun goes down, tell spooky stories by candlelight, make shadow puppets in the moonlight …

Get dirty

Louv tells the story of a dad who bought a truckload of dirt from a local landscape supplier and had it delivered to his yard as a special surprise for his kids. “He reports that the dirt pile cost less than a video game and lasted far longer.”

Share the love 

Stories you share of “transformational encounters and deep relationships” with wild animals (or wild places) can have a dramatic impact on how your child relates to their environment. The seal that swam straight up to you and looked you in the eye -  the nest of baby rabbits you discovered under a pile of twigs - the gecko who lived in your bedroom for an entire summer … Simple stories like these can help fire your child’s imagination - priming them to seek out their own discoveries.



Let Family Zone keep you up to date with all the latest trends and risks in today's digital world. Find out more about our strong, flexible parental controls, and start your free trial today.




Tell me more!

Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Cyber Safety, nature deficit disorder

    Try Family Zone for FREE

    Sign up now to try Family Zone for 1 month, totally free of charge.

    Free Trial
    Subscribe to our newsletter
    Follow us on social media
    Popular posts
    Parental Controls | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | teens on social media
    Can we talk? 100 questions your teen might actually answer
    Parental Controls | Screen time | youtube | smartphones | WhatsApp | suicide | self-harm | momo
    MOMO unmasked
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | Cyber Experts | parenting | roblox
    Roblox: What parents need to know about this popular gaming platform
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | tinder | Cyber Experts | parenting | yellow
    Yellow: The Tinder for Teens
    Parental Controls | Social Media | privacy | decoy app
    Hide It Pro: A decoy app to look out for
    Cyber Bullying | Parental Controls | Screen time | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | online predators | tiktok | paedophile | child predator | Likee
    LIKEE: What parents need to know about this risky TikTok wannabe

    Recent posts

    Press the reset button on your kid’s online routine

    COVID blew up our teens’ screen-time. It’s time to get them back on track. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, our children are facing a ...

    Bigger families face super-sized screen-time challenges

    If you have more than one child - and statistics show 86 percent of families do - then managing screen-time can be double trouble. Or ...

    'Bigorexia' a growing risk for today's boys

    We’re starting to understand how social media can damage girls’ self-esteem - but what about our boys? New research finds disturbing ...

    The metaverse: Brave new world - or an upgrade for predators?

    Mixing kids and adult strangers in a self-moderated online environment ... What could possibly go wrong?