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Help Kids to Escape Tech This Summer
Richard Bernstein, Camp Director at XUK, offers tips on Tech Detoxing your kids this Summer
Smart phones and other electronic devices play a huge part in children’s lives and are, of course, here to stay. Used in the right way, they can enrich lives, whether it be building positive relationships with families and friends, or even developing our understanding of the world. However, Ofcom (2016) stated that twelve to fifteen-year olds are spending up to 33 hours per week on the internet and gaming, with one in two feeling addicted to their devices (Common Sense Media, 2016).
It is reported that an increase in technology usage and over reliance on it has built barriers for children to have face-to-face conversations, resulting in a decline in social interaction. This decline has detrimental effects on children’s well-being with reports that it affects their mental health, decreases their confidence, social skills and even their ability to relate and empathize with others. With such news, we question, how do we teach children to balance the use of technology responsibly?
There are a large number of programmes available for children and teenagers which can provide an opportunity for them to partially or fully “unplug” from their devices and to re-connect with other people and the outdoors. Some of these programmes include summer camps which are offered mainly in North America and also around the world including in the UK.
Summer camps have different policies on the usage of mobile phones; some ban them and limit their use, whilst others allow and encourage children to use them responsibly. This responsibility provides children with the autonomy to balance their usage whilst getting the most out of their experience. As a result, camps provide a haven where children are no longer overwhelmed by their smart phones or bombarded by notifications (Michael Mercier, 2018). This freedom provides children with ample opportunities to spend their summer being active within an enabling and trusted environment and to develop a number of skills which will benefit them in their future.
Spending time outdoors and taking part in an array of activities is increasingly important for children. From creative sessions to problem solving and team sports, children can build communication and social skills; a skill that is often absent when communicating through phones. Turn taking, leadership skills, the ability to question, listen and discuss are also valuable attributes learnt which will help children throughout their education and take them into the workplace in the future. Time spent at summer camp shows our children how valuable friendships are when they are created in person, away from screens. Being in such diverse places with children from all over the world, summer camps challenge children to step out of their comfort zone and develop friendships with others who differ to their online friends.
Recently, a Harley Street Clinic Director said, “time spent messaging friends on Snapchat and Instagram can be just as dangerously addictive for teenagers as drugs and alcohol!”. There is an increasing importance to act on children’s usage as soon as possible. We need to teach children how to manage their time and prioritize communication in person compared to catching up with their virtual friends. With 71% of parents worried that their children spend too much time on their devices (Nielsen, 2016), our children need to disconnect from the addictive features their phones offer in order to reconnect, before it is too late.
Whilst this is said, it is important that as parents and camp directors we are realistic. Children need balance and we need to adapt to this. A complete ban has the potential to create other issues such as the feeling of being disconnected from the wider community and their families. Today, a combination of allowing campers to use their smart phones during selected times whilst being fully responsible for looking after and using their devices appropriately is beneficial. It is vital we encourage and promote this balance.
Richard Bernstein is Camp Director at XUK, which offers Summer Camps across the UK. Check out their website for more details at www.xukcamps.com