Unplugging & Downtime

DSC_0079-LLong holiday weekends, early dismissals and snow days…kids love them.  It’s time off to enjoy with friends and family, take a break from school and maybe even get outside to play in the snow.  And if you are a typical family, more time for kids to be “plugged in”.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and video games are all good and fun, but too much of a good thing can become a real problem.   Being plugged in is now the norm and provides us with endless amounts of useful information, entertainment and contact with others, but is being plugged in all the time benefiting our children?  Not so much!   Play dates that were once filled with imagination, adventure, and face to face interaction have been replaced with children all lined up staring at an ipad, itouch or game console.  It’s rare to call a friend on the phone anymore, kids are texting.  This technology savvy generation is missing out on building relationships that involve facial expressions, eye contact, physical contact, and basic face to face communication.   Kids are even forming online relationships with people that may not really exist.  There is a lack of privacy, as pictures and personal information gets posted for the world to see. This constant use of electronic devices takes away from the downtime that every child needs and can benefit from.

There is no doubt that technology has provided us with many benefits, but research shows that being overly connected does have some downsides to our health and well being. Kids are experiencing back and wrist pain, poor sleep and diminished attention spans.  Overusing technology is associated with low self-esteem, high stress, and weight gain.  Scientific American reported that one study of teen media habits found that increased screen time was likely to be associated with larger waistlines.  Computer time is replacing physical activity, and creating unconscious eating.  Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, reported that 61% of people feel jealous, depressed or annoyed after checking social media updates.  Researchers at the University of Maryland found that people who used their phones more often DSC_0071-Lwere less likely to engage in “prosocial” behavior, like helping others or contributing to the greater good.  The Huffington Post reported, “It’s estimated that children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of seven hours a day behind screens; teens send an average of 3,417 text messages each month; and 97% of adolescents have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms.

Now more than ever, summer camp is the breath of fresh air our children need to unplug and recharge.  Campers and staff set aside their electronic devices so they can focus on all that camp has to offer.  Without texting, Twitter and video games, campers are free to focus on making new friends, engage in face to face conversations, and productively work through conflicts with others.  Our children may squawk at the thought of being without their electronic devices for weeks at a time, but once at camp, their online connections are the last thing on their minds.   Camp allows kids to be in the moment and have the downtime they so well deserve.  Camp encourages friendship, communication, empowerment, and allows kids to discover who they are without the distractions of being plugged in.  Hooray for camp!!!