Getting Generation Z to disconnect so they can connect

Analog kids learn to relate face-to-face in the real world



It’s no exaggeration to say that this generation of campers, “Generation Z,” interacts with the world differently than generations before. The majority of this generation owns a smartphone, and they spend at least one hour a day online — with nearly half of them connected online more than 10 hours a day, according to Nielsen.

These statistics may be alarming, but they also align with the reality of parenting these days – dealing with screen time allowance, social media permissions and cyberbullying is exhausting.

Parents of Generation Z (children born in the mid-1990s through early 2000s) may also be concerned about the psychological effects of technology. As kids spend more time scrolling through social media feeds, they’re trained to replace their hard-won intrinsic self-worth with “likes.”

Kids compare themselves with the social media persona of others and may feel as if they’re missing out.

How can kids disconnect without feeling like they are missing out? Go to camp! At camp, kids replace social media with a constant positive social reality.

Camps provide a safe space for parents and children to prioritize unplugging from the digital world. Campers see summer camp as a place to spend time with friends and have fun, They willingly drop their devices to partake in the real action going on at camp. Many summer camps even have written policies banning forms of technology, which means that parents aren’t the “bad guys” enforcing the no-tech rule.

The lack of technology at most camps is integral to campers’ success. Without the barrier of phones and screens, campers find themselves forced to engage with their surroundings. Campers look at other human beings in the eye, focus on learning a new skill like archery or ceramics, and stop reaching for a phone in their pocket.

When kids are able to disconnect from smartphones and screens, they can create real connections in the real world. This may be part of the reason campers say that their camp friendships are stronger than their relationships formed at school or in other environments where technology is pervasive.

There are also several published studies lauding time away from screens to boost social development and brain function. One study shows that time outdoors, away from devices like smartphones, may actually boost certain brain functions like problem solving and multi-tasking.

While the outcomes provided by camps—self-confidence, independence, friendships, creative problem solving, etc.—are not fully attributable to a tech-free experience, giving children summer memories that are deliberately absent of technology is a part of the puzzle. Experiences at summer camp without their beloved screens may be some of Generation Z’s only analog memories.  

Hannah Weiner is the assistant director for camper development at Fleur de Lis Camp in Fitzwilliam.

More articles you might be interested in

How to deal with homesickness while at summer camp

If you prepare your camper to be out of their comfort zone, they can overcome and thrive

Summer camp vs. other opportunities — how do you choose?

Here’s what a camp experience can offer your child

Resilience, self-confidence and s’mores

Build a partnership with the camp to make sure your child gets the most out of their summer

The amazing ‘secret menu’ camps don’t advertise

The unexpected benefits of camp are some of the best reasons to attend
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