A cure for Nature Deficit Disorder?

Curtis Ice Fishing

Last Child in the WoodsIn May 2006, fate intervened and I found myself watching Richard Louv giving a speech at Dartmouth College about his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. After watching his speech, I read the book. It put into words things that disturb me about the society my boys are growing up in. Louv suggests their generation could be the first generation to grow up disconnected from nature and they could experience significant psychological problems as a result. But this story is about hope and he suggests many ways to avoid these problems.

What is Nature Deficit Disorder? It is not a medical condition. According to Louv in an interview with Salon:

"It's the cumulative effect of withdrawing nature from children's experiences, but not just individual children. Families too can show the symptoms -- increased feelings of stress, trouble paying attention, feelings of not being rooted in the world. So can communities, so can whole cities. Really, what I'm talking about is a disorder of society -- and children are victimized by it."

In a nutshell, kids are not getting into nature often enough and it's driving them crazy. Attention Deficit Disorder and other behavioral problems may be linked to their disconnection from nature. The emerging research that supports this is the biophilia hypothesis which suggests that there is an instinctive bond between humans beings and other living systems. And despite record levels of participation in organized sports. childhood obesity is at an all-time high. To learn more about the problem, read the book, check out the Children & Nature Network website, or watch An Evening with Richard Louv - Indianapolis Museum of Art (a very good 45-minute speech followed by 25 minutes of Q&A, which is similar to the one I saw at Dartmouth):

How does this relate to Hooked-in? This book was part of my inspiration for the creation of the website. Fishing is a great way to get kids into nature. Louv himself suggests that fishing is a cure for Nature Deficit Disorder in his book and in an interview with NPR. One of my goals for Hooked-in is to get kids out fishing.

Hooked-in encourages kids to go fishing because it turns fishing into a video game. Hooked-in awards points for posting catches on the website. To get points, the kid has to go out and catch a fish. To catch that fish, the kid has to go out and spend time in nature. The kid is rewarded for catching fish with the points he (or she) gets and with the notoriety that he gets from the new post on his personal fishing report. So, Hooked-in bridges the gap between where kids are spending lots of time today -- on the computer -- and where they are not spending enough time today -- in nature.

Does it work? If my son Sam is any indication, it works really well. He absolutely loves posting his catches on Hooked-in. Now that we've depleted our photo archive of his fishing photos, he's begging me to bring him out fishing so he can catch more fish to post on Hooked-in. With his enthusiasm, we'll be spending lots more time together out fishing this year.

I hope that Hooked-in can be part of the cure for Nature Deficit Disorder. Give it a try and let me know if makes a positive difference with your child.

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