Digital Detox At Overnight Summer CampPosted by on March 25, 2019

Fernwood Cove offers a variety of benefits through its overnight summer camp programs.  Well-known benefits include the development of important life skills like independence.  Skill development in an array of activities and lifelong friendships make a uniquely valuable experience.  In today’s world camp provides a new benefit – Digital Detox.

Research shows the impact of our digital world on our bodies.  Social media use has been shown to negatively impact mental health.  Blue lights from screen exposure is bad for our eyes.  And screen time and video games have been shown to trigger addiction centers of the brain.  Unfortunately, it’s most significant on developing brains.  However, research also shows that a digital detox of a few short weeks can rectify months worth of digital use and abuse.  It can seem crazy to think that an electronic device can create a physiological addiction.  Luckily, summer camp without electronics is the perfect counter-balance to our electronically driven world.  Summer camp is once again truly magical.

What does Digital-Free Look Like?

Electronic devices are a normal part of our everyday lives.  It’s not uncommon to see people with cellular phones or tablets at restaurants or on public transportation.  And they are certainly an aspect of most American’s lives at home.  But what does digital-free look like?

Days at overnight camp are filled with full-table conversations at meals.  And friendships develop through face-to-face interactions.  Staff, CITs, and campers receive support and recognition through high fives and hugs from bunkmates and friends.  Digital-Free looks like true connections built upon trust, support, and shared experiences.

Preparing for Digital Detox

There are a variety of preparations that need to happen prior to camp.  A new addition to the to-do list is preparing for a life at camp without electronic devices. Yes, preparing for a summer digital detox is something each camper, CIT and staff member needs to do.  This is an important step in helping ensure their success at camp.

The first step is taking a hard look at daily life and how often your camper is on their devices.  Make note of any patterns or routines, particularly if these occur during bedtime or other “down times.”  Then start decreasing the amount of time spent on electronics.  Modeling this as parents helps to show campers the importance of disconnecting from electronics.  It also will help you build true connections with your camper as she prepares for the summer.

Guide to Digital Detox

Start by focusing on down times and times when your camper is on their own.  Bedtime is a frequent homesickness time of the camp day.  If your child uses their devices before to ready or simply scroll through social media to get to sleep they will need new routines for camp.  Starting these new routines now will be key in lessening, or even eliminating, homesickness in the early days at camp.

Reading books by flashlight or writing in a journal are great alternatives to using devices at bedtime.  If your child likes to listen to music before bed make sure their playlists are downloaded to a basic, screen-free digital music player.

Don’t forget to talk with your camper(s) about what to expect throughout their days at summer camp.  Make sure both you and your camper(s) understand the process for turning in cell phones or other devices brought to camp.  It will be much less shocking for your camper to hand in her phone or other devices if she knows when this is going to occur.  Keep in mind that we advise campers not bring cell phones with them unless they are needed for flying to camp.

Practice, practice, practice.  As with any new routine or activity, it is important that your camper gets in to the new routine without her electronics before she comes to camp.  It seems like camp is so far away, but we’ll all enjoying our days in Maine before we know it.  Setting weekly goals with lessened time on electronics each week will certainly help.  Utilize built-in or free time-tracking apps to help keep track of screen time each week.  You can even create some fun competition within the family for who has the greatest reduction in their digital use each week.

The Impact of Digital Detox at Summer Camp

The impact of overnight camp lasts a lifetime.  Past generations have reaped these benefits for over one hundred years.  As society changes the needs of campers and camp families change as well.  Our digital society is definitely impacting youth development in a variety of ways.  There is certainly value for technology in education and in our daily lives.  However, with most things it’s always good for time away as well.  Stronger relationships, improved mental health, and restored brain function are just a few of the ways that digital detox help each of us each summer.  However the impact of digital detox at summer camp also has the potential to teach each of us that our devices aren’t needed.  As a minimum it’s a way for us to recognize that they don’t hold the value that society tells us they do.

Start with an assessment of your digital usage as a family.  Then create a plan to create new habits and routines surrounding your devices.  Work together as a family, spend time connecting, and support each other when there are struggles.  This will not only help you to reduce your electronics use, it will help your camper prepare for the summer.  And most of all, it will likely help your family better connect over the coming months.  Stronger relationships at camp and at home certainly make the time and effort worth it.

And one final challenge…  Continue with a digital free, or at least minimal use of electronics, once your camper comes home from Maine!