Arizona; Prescott — In an era marked by smartphones, tablets and laptops, a new non-medical condition has emerged: nature deficit disorder. It occurs when individuals, particularly children, lack sufficient access to the outside environment, therefore leading to a disconnect from the real world.
The rise of this phenomenon has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which confined most people to their homes, dramatically intensifying their reliance on devices. Lockdowns and social distancing measures forced people indoors and into the digital realm. For many, screens became their primary window to society, replacing physical experiences with virtual ones. This shift had significant consequences on kids already growing up in a world dominated by technology.
Nature deficit disorder is a term coined to describe a troubling cultural trend: as urbanization and technology have advanced, access to and time spent in nature has declined. This shortage in exposure to nature can have adverse effects on physical and mental well-being.
The newest generation, often referred to as "digital natives," has developed a unique relationship with the internet. Online platforms, educational apps, and social media have become their predominant approach to exploration and interaction. Although the internet offers a wealth of information and opportunities for virtual experiences, it cannot fully replace the benefits of direct contact with the natural world.
The consequences of nature deficit disorder are wide-ranging. Research has shown that a lack of exposure to nature can lead to increased stress, reduced creativity, and diminished physical health. Children who spend less time outdoors are more likely to suffer from obesity, attention disorders, and anxiety. Furthermore, the disconnect from nature can hinder the development of empathy and environmental consciousness.
While the digital age is here to stay, it is still essential to find a balance between screen time and outdoor experiences. Nature deficit disorder is a negative byproduct of how technology has undoubtedly transformed our lives.
Angelina Tonella (she/her) is an Embry Riddle Aeronautical University freshman in Prescott, Arizona. She is an Aeronautical Science major and has a passion for environmental justice.
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett