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Visits to national parks have decreased by over 20% since 1988—it’s the first persistent downward trend in U.S. park history. Most of the decline (98%) can be explained by four variables: time spent watching movies (at home and in theaters), surfing the Internet, playing video games, and oil prices. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but these trends may be early signs of a shift away from outdoor recreation and an appreciation of nature. That raises the question, who will be the next generation of conservation constituents?
Pergams, O.R.W. and P.A. Zaradic. 2006. Is love of nature in the U.S. becoming love of electronic media? 16-year downtrend in national park visits explained by watching movies, playing video games, internet use, and oil prices. Journal of Environmental Management 80:387-393
In another study, researchers looked at the role of the booming electronic media market for children. The impacts are sobering. Children aged zero to six spend on average two hours a day using some kind of screen medium. Even children under age two are using screen media—68% on a typical day.
Rideout, V.J., E.A. Vandewater and E.A. Wartella. 2003. Zero to six: Electronic media in the lives of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Publication #3378.
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Washington, D.C.