Last Child in the Woods

Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder” was first published in 2005 but still receives a lot of attention from concerned parents and education professionals. Louv identified a syndrome he calls ‘nature-deficit disorder’ which implies that people, especially children, who have little access to the natural world can exhibit psychological damage. His work has been received with skepticism in some quarters, although it is often the driver behind activism related to digital detoxing and other ideas seen to be remedying the supposedly negative effects of technology. According to Wikipedia, Louv has said that “nature-deficit disorder is not meant to be a medical diagnosis but rather to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from the natural world”.

In the decade since the book first came out, we have become gripped by our online lives in a way Louv probably didn’t – couldn’t have – anticipated. Concerns about alienation have grown with the evolution of a very digital-savvy generation and certainly there are issues here to be discussed. But there’s a problem, I think, to do with the appeal this kind of claim has to a hungry press media always looking for the next big panic.

“Last Child in the Woods” is an eloquent and moving read. I’d love to see an updated version that takes into account projects like the Digital Archaeology Weekend held in the New Forest in early 2016.  Hundreds of children and their families joined experts for a weekend of gaming and archaeology including laser mapping, Minecraft, Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.  There’s a lot of that kind of thing going on, and I’ll be reporting on it here.

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