Outdoor activities lose allure for today's kids

Several inches of soft, fresh snow blanketed the Hilltop Ski Area on Wednesday, and the chairlift ran less than half full through the beginning of the after-school hours.

Meanwhile, at the same time downtown, officials from local, state and federal organizations and agencies gathered at the Get Outdoors, Anchorage! summit to discuss why it is kids no longer go outside to play as they once did.

There were myriad reasons offered: changing American demographics, socioeconomic strains, busy parents, indifferent parents, schools burdened with too many test standards, the seductiveness of all of today's electronic entertainment.

"I don't really have time to go outside," said Nara McCray, a senior at Dimond High School and one of a pair of teenagers who sat down with the recreation bigwigs at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center for a panel on "Understanding Nature Deficit Disorder.''

Nature-deficit disorder has become the catch phrase for the disconnect between today's youth and their environment. Author Richard Louv wrote a book about it -- "Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder'' -- that has helped sparked a national discussion among agencies, interest groups and businesses with a stake in outdoor recreation.

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