Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 54, Tuesday July 19, 2005




Special feature

Nature-deficit disorder hits children

What with distractions such as TV, computers, playstations and virtual pets, it is no wonder that children are rapidly becoming indoor freaks. In the process, it is adieu to wholesome sports and other outdoor activities such as trekking or exploring the wonders of nature.

There is a term for this condition--nature-deficit disorder. This phrase is devised by US-based author and columnist, Richard Louv. According to an Internet article, Louv came up with the term to describe an environmental ennui flowing from children's fixation on artificial entertainment rather than natural wonders. Those who are obsessed with computer games or are driven from sport to sport, maintains Louv, miss the restorative effects that come with the nimbler bodies, broader minds and sharper senses that are developed through outdoor activities.

Louv has apparently interviewed hundreds of people to gauge their views on this subject. His research has revealed that parents are concerned about their children spending way too much time indoors. There certainly is cause for consternation. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that US children spend 44 hours a week with TV, computers and video games.

Thankfully, in our part of the world there are fewer young TV addicts. As Imesh Chandika Gunatilaka, a student of Class six in Sir John Wilson School, asserts, "My parents ration activities such as TV, internet and video games to two hours in a day." Another young girl says that TV has lost some of its initial attraction and she would rather hang out with friends outdoors.

This is not to say that TV, computer games, play stations and virtual pets are welcomed by parents. To many, these activities eat into time that would otherwise be spent on reading, sports, exploring nature or simply playing outdoors with friends.

Another obstacle in spending time with nature and the outdoors is today's heavy curriculum in schools. Most schools lay so much emphasis on academics that outdoor activities get a go by. Also, barring some international schools in Dhaka, few schools have adequate space for games such as cricket, football, tennis and swimming. This explains why parents spend their time racing around clubs and other venues so that their children get an all round education.

In this age of globalisation, it may be hard to put the stoppers on TV watching, play stations, computer and video games, However, a healthy balance between outdoor and indoor activities is imperative--unless we want our children to be reduced to couch potatoes.

By Kavita Charanji


Journey into maturity

There was a time when life meant crawling out of bed at 7 am in the morning, getting ready for school, returning home in the afternoon and then dozing off during the evening with books wide open on table. School days are long gone, yet I wake up at 7 am in the morning to catch the early classes of university. But waking up from bed no more entails constant shrieks of my mother, or the ear-splitting blare of the long standing bedside clock. My biological timepiece now seems to work better than the mechanical ones.

As time is flying, life is unveiling itself with new definitions. What life meant 10 years back does not mean the same right now. And I know that life will not mean the same 10 years from now. A life is a journey as you might say. There are ups and downs, you move through boulevards as well as alleys, you taste freedom as well as captivity. We become mature with time. This is possibly the reason why I now fret when the telephone bill skyrockets, when our maid snoozes while scrubbing the floor, when sugar touches the bottom of the jar or when a guest arrives and we don't have enough snacks at home. But if I look back in time, I see myself as a happy-go-lucky kid. But the same old me has undoubtedly changed overtime, I'm sure all of us go or have gone through this phase of becoming more mature and responsible. As we grow older we are obliged to wear a disguise of an adult no matter how much we dislike it. If you don't do that you would be the odd one out in your society.

It's often that I lament over the fact that I had to grow up, finish high school, enter college and mull over the household businesses. Even a simple thing like an electric switch not working properly now troubles me. Phew! Growing up is not always a happy experience. You tend to shoulder the responsibilities that aren't even supposed to be your headache. By the time you enter college, you begin to hunt for a part-time job so that you will not have to beg money from your parents. And the moment you associate yourself with a true organisation, the load of responsibilities on your two shoulders gets even heavier. The same shoulders that once carried nothing but free air now bears a world of obligations. But then as per the cliché every cloud has a silver lining: there are brighter sides of growing up too. The first one is definitely the opportunity to taste freedom for the first time in life. I remember the first time when I went out to eat in a popular fast food joint in Dhanmondi with a close pal of mine. I was thrilled and at the same time, anxious. As I separated slices of cucumber from the chicken burger and started to gobble it up, my mind kept picturing what might happen if a cousin or an aunt spots me here and complains to mom.
Today I go out to do my shopping all by myself. Gone are times when I had to pester my mother to take me out to buy a dress, a pair of shoes, or a thing as simple as a hair clasp. I can hang out with my friends and cousins, choose my own outfits, sandals, window shop when nothing seems to go right in my life or talk over the phone for longer than usual. And all these have actually become possible because I'm an adult today. Adulthood has given me the permit to voice my opinions, handle an adverse situation on my own and decide what's right and wrong for me.

The whole journey of becoming a mature person hasn't always been pleasant. Minor and major differences in my physique and lifestyle have signalled that I now belong to a different group of people. No matter how much I want, I can no more take children rides in any theme park or cannot get the privilege of enjoying a discounted ticket while travelling. These are rather silly thoughts though but I'm sure that a lot of you loved the extra treat that you used to get from people around you when you were a kid. Life goes on, you metamorphose from a toddler to a teenager and then to an adult. After the growth phase is over, you wither with time, you begin to count the last days of life and then suddenly, you bid a good-bye to the world you lived for quite a while. But then these changes together make life such an amazing journal of happiness, grief, gain and loss.

By Wara Karim


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2003 The Daily Star