Many camps have firm policies about the use of technology by campers and staff for the discreet periods they are at camp. These policies often stipulate no cell phones, no handheld gaming devices, no blackberries, no iPads, no laptops.
Initially, kids can mildly panic at the idea of being unplugged at camp. Dr. Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University, Domenguez Hills and author of Me, My Space and I: Parenting the Net Generation, indicates that kids' uber engagement with technology is "a compulsion" with a need to constantly check, play and be in contact with their device(s) of choice. Technology is an intimate part of their everyday experience, for good and for ill. This is a fact. But my experience is that kids adapt well once they're in the camp environment.
Camp provides a brief interlude during which kids can discover that they really can be OK without their technology. The concrete experience of being face-to-face with each other and engaged in activities that pull them into life provides the support many kids need to detox from their technology. Early bird swims, dangling from a ropes course, sitting in a dining hall belting out camp songs and evening bonfires are exactly the tonic to help kids disconnect from electric power and connect to the power of nature, friends and community.
Look, we all know technology is an amazing thing. It provides emotional, social and intellectual experiences that have the ability to enhance kids' lives in many ways. And hey, the advent of "bunk notes," an ingenious use of email to help parents send "letters" to their kids while they are at camp, circumventing snail mail, so kids actually get their letters while they are at camp, is terrific. But studies report that technology is also contributing to nasty problems including Internet addiction, narcissism, anxiety and depression in our kids. Not to mention the rats nest of problems presented by cyber-bullying.
So, if your kids have been "forced" into a tech-free zone this summer, why not help them ride that wave into the fall? I'm not suggesting a total boycott of all things tech, but rather that you have a real conversation with your child or teenager about the pros and cons of technology. Ask them if they noticed anything different about their life experience when they didn't have access to their devices. What did they miss about it? What didn't they miss about it? Be open to hearing what they say and see if together you can come up with ways that they can stay connected to the positive aspects of technology without re-enslaving themselves to it.
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