Get Unplugged this Summer!
By Maureen Penko
Summer has arrived and we think of ice cream, the outdoors and camp! But we can't forget about our cell phones and digital access, or can we? In this issue camps are the highlight but I would challenge you all to reflect on digital communication and how it impacts our lives. In recent article on Social Media at summer camps by Ashley Dehudy M.D. she speaks about the purpose of camp.
"Camps want families and kids to have a positive, memorable experience. Having time away and connecting with the natural environment is essential. Camp is a really unique opportunity to establish a sense of community and form lifelong friendships. If parents allow kids to unplug from daily life and engage themselves at camp, it will be a very rewarding experience."
Safety and staying in touch is important, and when we send our kids to camp there is always a contact number for emergencies. That does not translate into your child needing to have a personal cell phone.
We don't yet understand the full impact that screen time and digital media are having on children. We ourselves are so plugged in that we may not realize that this digital modelling is being transferred to our children.
"Technology has transformed the way parents use digital media around their children."
Dr. Radinsky and colleagues from Michigan State University did a study on getting unplugged and her team found that parent mobile device use is associated with fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions with the children. This has also been a comment shared by kindergarten teachers whom I asked when researching the digital impact. Here is what they said. "Kindergarten children today come to school with less foundational knowledge, have more speech and language difficulties, and often lack play skills" On the other hand, they are more informed about how to access information on the computer.
So, start looking for camps where dynamic learning takes place, verbal skills are reinforced and self-esteem is developed through partnership with other children.
There is definitely a place for digital exposure but having said that, here are some pointers on how parents can get unplugged:
Set boundaries. Create a family plan that includes unplugged spaces or times of day. For example, you may abolish tech use at dinnertime or bedtime. Or maybe it's right when you get home and your kids are excited to see you.
Track your mobile use. Consider creating a filter or block on your device to avoid the temptation of tech use at home. Think of ways to cut down technology time.
Identify top device stressors. Think about which parts of your mobile device use are most stressful for you. If it's reading the news or checking work email, for example, reserve these tasks for times when you know your kids are occupied.
So parents, camp is a really unique opportunity for your child and start thinking about getting unplugged this summer.
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