Digital Vacations Are Especially Good for GirlsPosted by Alicia Theriault on April 01, 2019
Written by Fernwood Cove Parent Frances Phillips.
Summer Camps have always had a proud no-tech policy, a digital vacation for girls, especially Fernwood Cove. Technology is everywhere, in every aspect of our lives, and the effects on girls are far from simple, and not always positive. There is a growing movement to limit young people’s use of screens of all types, even from the very people who market and sell them. Individuals faced with a digital detox often show real signs of anxiety at the thought of separating from their smartphones. But there are significant benefits to extended periods of smartphone freedom, and many reasons that digital vacations are especially good for girls. Here are a few we’ve noticed over the years:
Sometimes you have to unplug to plug in. As most of us know all too well, just being in the presence of our own smartphone reduces our ability to focus. While limits on screen time and imposed media blackouts during the school year help to strengthen and preserve a girl’s cognitive capacity, there is nothing like a multi-week break from the smartphone. Going offline for an extended period of time allows a girl to discover a different pace of life. One that is marked by sunrise and sunset, reveille and taps, rather than the 24-hour news and entertainment cycle. Maintaining long periods of focus on activities that she has chosen to spend time on. Perfecting that song in the performance, or mastering a 360 on the wakeboard—are experiences that can never be created virtually. How refreshing is it to spend time doing things because you are actually interested in them and not just because they are Instagram-worthy?
Girls today seem to live both under a microscope and in front of a mirror, giving them unlimited opportunities to reflect on themselves and each other. Sadly, though, girls can be their own harshest critics, and this constant attention can turn to relentless judgment or even criticism. Social media has played a large role in girls’ awareness of their images and relationships and sometimes the effects of this emphasis on a public life can have negative consequences. Leaving the world of posting and liking posts for a lengthy period of time is the perfect way for a girl to re-boot not only her view of the world but the way she sees herself. When she asks herself the question “Who am I, really?”, not only will she be sure of the answer—she is far more likely to like the answer, and herself. Along with better self-knowledge comes greater confidence, of course, and an increased ability to go out into the world with resilience, thoughtfulness and kindness.
It’s hard to meet someone’s eyes when you’re scrolling on Instagram. Making new friendships that reach across the miles and last a lifetime is one of the best things about summer camp. All of the ways to make lasting, fulfilling connections, like honing interpersonal skills, communicating effectively, expressing empathy and broadening our own viewpoints, are best done in person. At Fernwood Cove, even though each girl has hundreds of hours of actual face time with friends, it never seems to be enough! Many campers even insist on taking the bus to and from camp because it adds more IRL time together. Being present feels natural when it is the default setting for socializing. Having that conversation that you’ll never forget, sharing ideas and plans for the future, and giving each other a wholehearted, “You’ve got this!” are just a few of the memories girls create at summer camp that are all too few and far between once everybody’s phones are back in their hands.
It’s true that social media can be beneficial as a form of social support and knowledge acquisition, but a mounting body of evidence suggests it can also affect mental health in young people negatively, particularly girls. It sounds so simple, but putting the phone away is sometimes the fastest, least difficult route to improving one’s health. We all know that sleep is key to emotional health, and at Fernwood Cove, no one ever has to decide whether to turn off notifications before bedtime or feel the pull of checking how many “likes” their most recent post garnered. Putting the phone away for a full 24 days is that much better, and experiencing a sustained period of freedom from tech allows girls to notice their own natural feelings.
Even for the most technologically-enthralled among us, after a few days of liberation from our phones, the reflex tap, scroll and swipe subside, and FOMO—fear of missing out—is replaced with the actual in-person experience of living and connecting. Days feel longer—in the best way. Without the distraction of the internet, the moments in between sunrise and sunset feel delightfully luxurious. Rainstorms morph from being an inconvenience to being an event.
Weeks of going to bed and waking up peacefully and unrushed—in your own head, with just your own thoughts—is a rare gift these days. It’s a gift that Fernwood Cove is committed to giving all our campers every day at summer camp, and always will be. No matter how fast tech develops around us, some things will never change.