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Closing day of camp is always a mixed bag of sadness and excitement for us. We’re super excited to be welcoming a new group of kids, but also sad to see our campers leave, knowing it’ll be another year before we see them again.
At Huntington Lake on every closing day we have several buses leaving just after breakfast. I always enjoy walking to the parking lot with the kids, chatting as we stroll towards the buses to load their bags, and give everyone their documents and coveted mobile phones. I’m always curious how they coped being away from their phone for the last two weeks. Until recently, I pretty much got the same standard reply: ‘It was hard at first, but I eventually got used to it’. Or ‘It was OK.’ Or ‘Not so bad!’
As we were walking to the bus at the end of Session 2, I asked Sara, a very typical, social, fashionable outgoing 14-year-old from Paris, how her two weeks was without her mobile phone. To my surprise, she enthusiastically replied “Awesome!” She spent the next few minutes talking about how her friends and parents are always on the phone texting, scrolling and ignoring her and each other. She also complained about the pressure of keeping her social media updated and the time she’d waste with Snapchat and Instagram – sorry, parents, no mention of Facebook. So passé. In short, she loved not having her phone! The good news is, more and more of the kids leaving camp are saying the same thing.
It’s not hard these days to find articles, books, motivational speakers, child psychologists or parents that are addressing the “Smart phone issue”, and the impact it’s having on our children and their social development. Dare I say, adults as well? Children attending camp now are a part of the first generation of children that have had access to a smartphone since day one. Commonly known as the “Z Generation” or “i Gens”, there are few current challenge that this generation is facing that hasn’t been attributed to the excess of constant internet access, online gaming, and social media. During the winter Olympics hosted by South Korea in 2018, I learned that South Korea had the largest number of “technology addiction clinics” in the world. Did you know that there were technology addition clinics in the first place? From Anxiety, low self- esteem, sleep deprivation, ADHD, and online bullying, the smart phone seems to have played a big part in the many challenges that our kids are facing today, and the data seems pretty clear.
If you’re interested in learning more on how smart phones and the internet are effecting our children today, not to mention our families, I can highly recommend Jean Twenge’s book ” iGen”. Jean is a Psychologist from San Diego State University, and has spent many years studying our generations starting from the “Baby Boomers”, “X-Generation”, “Millennials” and now the “iGeneration”. Jean was also a presenter at the fall WAIC (Western Association of Independent Camps) conference in New Port Beach, exploring how summer camp professionals can get involved in this important conversation. Her statistical portrait of the smartphone generation was eye-opening.
Conveniently, or not, depending on your perspective, National Day of Unplugging is just around the corner. Join the Kennolyn Camps team in participating in this important first step in getting us all unplugged and more personally connected with one another. National Day of Unplugging starts Friday March 6th from sundown to Saturday, March 7th, sundown. Check out their web site at www.nationaldayofunplugging.com to get more involved, as well as some ideas on how you and your family can spend more time together unplugged.
Back to closing day at camp, as I stood outside the bus and watched Sara and the rest of the children pull away, Sara waved with tears in her eyes, looked down, and drove away with the glow of her phone lighting her face, along with the rest of our children that were heading back to the digital world. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it’s a good start.