Think electronics aren't getting in the way of kids and nature? While it might not be true in every nook and cranny of the country, it is happening in some areas. Take California, for instance. Tommy Nguyen told the San Francisco Chronicle trees are pretty boring.
"I'd rather be at the mall because you can enjoy yourself walking around looking at stuff as opposed to the woods," Nguyen said from the comfort of the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall.
In Yosemite and other parks, he said, furrowing his brow to emphasize the absurdly lopsided comparison, "the only thing you look at is the trees, grass and sky."
This was the hook Chronicle staff writer Peter Fimrite used to get into Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods.
OK, we've all heard plenty about Mr. Louv's book the past two years; he's made a cottage industry out of it. So let's move on to some recent hard data. Again, here's a snippet from the Chronicle:
The nature gap is just as big a problem in California, where there are more state and national parks than anywhere else in the country. A recent poll of 333 parents by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 30 percent of teenagers did not participate in any outdoor nature activity at all this past summer. Another 17 percent engaged only once in an outdoor activity like camping, hiking or backpacking.
The numbers coincide with national polls indicating that children and teenagers play outdoors less than young people did in the past. Between 1997 and 2003, the proportion of children ages 9 to 12 who spent time hiking, walking, fishing, playing on the beach or gardening declined 50 percent, according to a University of Maryland study.
The story goes on to blame urbanization, video games, fear of nature, even higher park entrance fees for the trend.
Fortunately, folks are trying to reverse this trend. Groups such as the National Park Service, which is working with others on outreach, the Outdoor Industry Association, and other conservation groups.
For more information on what's being done and what can be done, check out the Children and Nature Network.