Here at Miracle Camp we are dedicated to being a learning-based Youth Service Organization that responds to and implements technology in appropriate ways, while also sharing what we learn with parents desiring to train a godly generation in a media saturated culture. Serving thousands of students each year, the Miracle Camp ministry team sees the need for balance and even boundaries that will protect and influence the next generation of Christ followers. In this three part blog series we hope to provide rationale behind implementing our device free policy for Summer Camps in 2019.
At Miracle Camp, the following scenario is not an uncommon one.
A 7th grader steps off the church bus, taking in the sights around her: Summer Staff cheering, kids finding their cabins, and plan-scheming to get in all the best activities. Though a busy excitement fills the air, she can’t help but sense a loneliness. Instinctively she reaches to her jeans pocket, only to find the void is deeper than the space where her phone used to be; it comes from the disconnect from her world of “followers,” “likes,” and messages. She wonders how she is supposed to have “the best week of her life” at camp if she doesn’t have a way to “talk” to anyone.
This situation is not too different from what adults experience when accidentally leaving their phones at home when they go to the store or attend an event. Constant connectivity inevitably changes us, often in unseen ways. If not used properly, it leads to an addiction resulting in underlying consequences that are taking a toll on kids physically, socially, mentally, and more.
Technology is consuming cognitive capacity, therefore leaving huge gaps in the realm of development. Kids are not getting enough sleep or exercise and end up snacking more than necessary. Their ability to interact with others socially is declining as they depend more on the virtual world for relationships while neglecting their family and friends in front of them. This can lead to feelings of isolation. According to CCCA, 69% of kids recognize that in-person interactions are more gratifying and wish they could spend more time socializing with friends face-to-face rather than online.
Due to the stimulation kids are exposed to through technology, shorter attention spans lead to difficulties in many areas, but particularly academically. “The brain is trained at a young age to multitask to such a high degree that it is often incapable of focusing on one task or thought at a time.” Children who spend a lot of time on electronics “have trained their brain to receive heightened stimulation and the accompanying dopamine boosts. They are therefore susceptible to similar symptoms as a child with ADHD—as he or she may also begin to have difficulty focusing on classroom instruction or chores.”
With technology infiltrating nearly every aspect of life, it has created tremendous pressure on students. 41% of kids are overwhelmed by the notifications they receive online, and 58% feel they are expected to respond instantly. The way it is marketed, kids are not able to say “no.” It is difficult to manage an addiction in the first place, but it is an entirely different battle when the addiction is something that kids want a break from, but is constantly in our faces thanks to marketing, media, and more. This requires an extra level of intentionality, for students, parents, and institutions like summer camps.
Rather than being a slave to technology, we need it in its rightful place. It is a tool to work for us, not the other way around. “While it is too simplistic to say that we are a product of our technologies or tools, it is indisputably true that in many ways our technologies do shape us,” Tim Challies of LifeWay Research says. Because technology is a normal part of everyday life for most people, we don’t see the addiction and the ways it is changing us. To live wisely in this digital world, “it’s critical for us and for the next generation to be able to step back and see how technology is actually shaping us.”
Setting limits on technology is not limiting us, like many view it, but rather freeing us from the grip of technology’s addiction. Monitoring screen time both for yourself and your kids is a way to gain balance in technology usage. Choose to participate in other screen-free activities, such as reading a book, taking a walk, playing a board game, etc. Taking televisions, computers, and phones out of your children’s rooms at night helps them improve their focus and attention spans, as well as help them relax for a good night’s sleep. As part of the initiative to gain control over the technology addiction and to ensure the best week for kids, we have created a device free policy for Summer Camp 2019. Next week will wrap up our technology blog series with more about practically implementing the new policy and how it will benefit campers in a multitude of ways.