If your child is like most, they “tweet” their way through breakfast, text at lunch, “like” and “comment” all day long, Snap Chat through dinner, post selfies to Instagram around bedtime and wake up and do it all again the next day. No wonder they stay up to late and want to sleep until noon, they’re busy!
Research has shown kids spend up to 7.5 hours A DAY with their eyes glued to a screen and their fingers frantically pecking away at keyboards. Kids growing up in an age of such accessible and socially acceptable technology can sometimes get lost in the sea of text messages and status updates. Social media can be a hunting ground for bullies, as it is easy to become detached from empathy and consequences when you’re behind a screen. Kids do and say things they would not normally do or say when they’re plugged in, and that can be detrimental to their actual social development. When kids only speak their mind when they are anonymous, or when they try to be someone they aren’t to impress others, they are lacking opportunities to develop self-confidence and character. They may have 1000 “friends” on social media, but are slowly loosing the ability to walk up to someone and shake their hand, introduce themselves, or settle conflict in a responsible and socially acceptable way. Social media isn’t bad in itself, but when we let it take the place of our child’s actual social development, we are doing them a huge disservice.
Which is why, at Camp Starlight, we’re unplugged. Campers leave their cellphones at home, and enjoy a summer without texting, emailing or using social media. At first, potential campers many find this kind of “torture” unbearable, but as they dive deep into the activities that the camp has to offer, they will reevaluate their role online. They will interact with others in a meaningful, personal and relational way. They will improve their written communication skills by writing letters back home to loved ones, and feel the excitement of receiving a handwritten note from people back home, a feeling you just don’t get when you check your inbox. Without a phone in their back pocket to tempt them, they will be able to really focus and listen to what other campers are saying. In turn, when they are sharing a story or experience, they will not be looking out into a crowd of people staring down onto a screen.
Campers who arrive shy and a little reserved will leave with a newfound confidence, based on the things accomplished during their stay. They will be able to look back on the summer when they learned to swim, conquered their stage fright, made new friends or discovered their love of magic and apply that self-confidence into their life back home. They will no longer need to hide behind a screen in order to communicate with their peers or feel heard.
As a parent, you can find comfort in the fact that while your child is away, they will be learning valuable life skills that don’t involve how many words they can text a minute, or how many “likes” they can get on their Instagram picture. The skills they learned while they are unplugged will stay with them for a lifetime, and that is better than being retweeted by a celebrity.