Digital Devices & Distractions

Mobile devices are everywhere, and in the hands of everyone.   As young as toddlers in strollers, we are a society immersed in a world of faces buried in mobile devices.  From the moment we wake up to the time we go to sleep, we are plugged in and couldn’t imagine a world without this technology.  We are talking, texting, emailing, swiping, clicking, and scrolling on social media for more hours than we care to admit, leaving us very distracted.  Ongoing advances in new technologies, and the constant rising power of social media, has our focus divided and changing the way we engage with our friends, family, and the world.

Though there are great benefits of being connected to the online world with just the tap of a finger, there is a downside to spending too much time on our mobile devices.  Regardless if someone is using the phone for gathering information or just digital amusement, overuse can have a negative impact. Research shows that high phone use can decrease academic and work performance, cause sleep deprivation, and negatively impact interpersonal relationships and one’s ability to concentrate.  How many times have you tried to avoid bumping into someone walking down the street with their head staring down at their phone?  This distraction is happening at all ages, it’s not just kids who are spending too much time staring at mobile devices.  Adults are just as addicted to the constant checking of their gadgets and missing out on time with family and friends.  When we lose eye contact, we lose so much more.  We feel dismissed when someone we are trying to have a conversation with is absorbed in their mobile device.  Kids feel unimportant when parents use their cell phones during meals, conversations and playing. Parents feel unheard when kids have their faces buried in a phone or video game when asked to study or come to dinner.  Our relationships suffer when we let technology get our attention more than the people around us.

We are thankful for camp and the gift campers are given to disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other.  When prospective families hear that IS campers are unplugged for the summer, they are thrilled (maybe even a bit envious.)  They appreciate the IS philosophy that kids deserve a much needed a break from the constant information and communication they are barraged with 24/7.  Though cell phones and video games are embedded in the everyday experience of most tweens and teens, campers feel a sense of relief when they board the camp bus without their mobile devices or gaming systems.  Camp provides a much-needed digital detox.  Campers don’t feel lonely or anxious leaving these devices at home, but instead look forward to connecting with camp friends and living in real time. They don’t need to read someone’s story online, they are experiencing the story at camp.   Phones aren’t raised in the air capturing a camp moment, the moment is captured with our own eyes and hearts. We are paying attention and build camp memories, with no need to record them in the memory of a mobile device.  Camp allows kids to rewire, look up, and live in the moment.

It can be difficult to navigate the connected world we find ourselves in, and remember that the digital universe can wait while we interact with people in the present moment.  There will never be another lifetime without advanced digital technology, but we can try to be mindful and unplug from time to time.  It’s both important and essential in today’s age to decrease the distractions and give our attention to the people we are with and tasks we are doing.  Decide every day to take a moment to put the phone away.  Place it in your pocket when a friend is talking to you, leave it in another room during a family meal, take it off the table during a meeting, or leave it home when taking the dog for a walk.   Look up and take in the moment right in front of you.  Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, texts and emails can wait.  Experience a camp moment and be present.