Cotton Wool Culture

Children "learn by doing" in the natural environment, says the National Trust

Nature Deficit Disorder ‘damaging Britain’s children’

UK children are losing contact with nature at a “dramatic” rate, and their health and education are suffering, a National Trust report says.

Traffic, the lure of video screens and parental anxieties are conspiring to keep children indoors, it says.

Evidence suggests the problem is worse in the UK than other parts of Europe, and may help explain poor UK rankings in childhood satisfaction surveys.

The trust is launching a consultation on tackling “nature deficit disorder”.

“This is about changing the way children grow up and see the world,” said Stephen Moss, the author, naturalist and former BBC Springwatch producer who wrote the Natural Childhood report for the National Trust.

“The natural world doesn’t come with an instruction leaflet, so it teaches you to use your creative imagination.

“When you build a den with your mates when you’re nine years old, you learn teamwork – you disagree with each other, you have arguments, you resolve them, you work together again – it’s like a team-building course, only you did it when you were nine.”

The trust argues, as have other bodies in previous years, that the growing dissociation of children from the natural world and internment in the “cotton wool culture” of indoor parental guidance impairs their capacity to learn through experience.

It cites evidence showing that:

  • children learn more and behave better when lessons are conducted outdoors
  • symptoms of children diagnosed with ADHD improve when they are exposed to nature
  • children say their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors more than owning technology.

Yet British parents feel more pressure to provide gadgets for their children than in other European countries.

Anger over traffic

The phrase nature deficit disorder was coined in 2005 by author Richard Louv, who argued that the human cost of “alienation from nature” was measured in “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses”.

In the UK as in many other countries, rates of obesity, self-harm and mental health disorders diagnosed in children have climbed significantly since the 1970s.

…Mr Moss cites statistics showing that the area where children are allowed to range unsupervised around their homes has shrunk by 90% since the 1970s.

Whereas some reasons behind the parental “cotton wool culture” are not based in logic – most sexual molestation occurs in the home, for example, not in parks – the one “genuine massive danger” is traffic.

“I think the first step for any child is playing outdoors in the street; and in the 40 years since I grew up, traffic has increased hugely, and that’s the main reason why none of us let our kids out on their own,” Mr Moss told BBC News.

“The only solution would be to have pedestrian priority on every residential street in Britain; when you are driving along the street, if there are children playing, they have priority.”

Source: BBC News Read more

This has long been an argument of mine. I didn’t have a fancy name for it, I just knew it existed from my own experience and looking at kids today. The kids of today are wimps; sooks, as we would have said in New Zealand. They grow up and know nothing. They go to school and learn, but they still know nothing, absolutely nothing about the real world.

This is not a new phenomenon, it started in the 1970s with ‘baby-sitter’ television. Parents abdicated their responsibility, totally! Since the advent of TV, the situation has only worsened, worsened with each successive generation; this is all compounded by the ‘super-tribe’ phenomenon (The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris, 1967) of the mega-cities. Parents of today have no more idea of how to be parents than fly to the moon.

The world has become a place where parents are vaguely aware that there are little people in the house; they have no idea what to do with them or how to interact with them.

The very fabric of society has become threadbare. Respect for elders, social interactions, violence and crime are the result.

Check these previous posts for more of my thoughts on the matter:

Waikuku School Where Kids Can be Kids – A new headmaster with a return to older values

Nature-deficit Disorder – A broader view, confirming this UK case

Cow Poo – Make You Fink on Friday – A look at why we feel better when outdoors all comes down to cow poo

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One thought on “Cotton Wool Culture

  1. […] really in a sorry state. I wrote about the social fabric becoming threadbare this morning on a post Cotton Wool Culture. It’s about parenting, but more importantly it’s about kids and the way […]

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