Selfie or your connection with nature: what matters more?

Smartphone addicts take seven times more selfies than nature lovers, according to a new study by University of Derby researchers.

Led by the University of Derby’s Dr Miles Richardson, the study is just the latest in a long line of research showing the benefits of nature connection.

The new research, which will be presented at a National Trust-sponsored conference in Derby on Wednesday, found that smartphone addicts take seven times more selfies and are less sociable than nature lovers.

Child taking photographs of snowdrops on a smartphone at Newark Park, Gloucestershire

(c) National Trust Images/James Dobson

People who are in touch with nature use their phone half as much each day, have significantly higher self-esteem, are significantly more conscientious, emotionally stable and open to new experiences.

There is a growing body of research demonstrating the positive impacts of nature connection.

Developing a connection to nature in childhood has been linked to people taking more pro-environmental actions as adults.  Spending time in green space is associated with better mental and physical health.

Four years ago the National Trust’s Natural Childhood report brought together much of this research.

It pointed to statistics that showed Britain’s children were spending more time than ever before in front of a screen. The report identified the barriers to children spending more time outdoors: risk culture, busy roads, unwelcoming nature reserves and fears of strangers.

Despite all the barriers, the report’s author – broadcaster Stephen Moss – asked a simple question:

“Should we ensure that every child has the opportunity to develop a personal connection with the natural world, with all the benefits this will bring…or not?”

Along with many others, the National Trust thought that children should have a chance to connect with nature.

That belief has been the driving force behind our 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ campaign.

But we don’t think that screens and children’s connection with nature is incompatible.

Screens aren’t the problem. It’s what you do with them.

“Screens can still offer us new ways to connect with wildlife”, says Gwen Potter, National Trust’s Countryside Manager on the wild Northumberland Coast.

Our 50 things campaign has used technology to connect children to nature. Over 100,000 children signed up to the campaign online, logging their outdoor adventures through a dedicated website.

“If people don’t care about nature, they won’t want to protect it”, says Gwen.

“At a time when everything from common seals to curlew are under threat, we should ask: what’s more useful, your selfie or your relationship with nature?”

National Trust is supporting Nature Connections 2016, a multi-disciplinary conference at University of Derby, on Wednesday 15th June.

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