What would a week look like without the constant “ding” of a smartphone alert? Or two weeks without the impulse to scroll your Instagram feed? Three weeks without seeing one Snapchat selfie?
It would look like summer at Camp Waukeela – laughter and deepening friendships free of gossip and drama.
Our role as educators is to instill values that will help girls become their best selves, to prepare them for life as independent, thoughtful and self-confident young women. One way we believe we can do that is by powering off from technology.
A recent Pew Research Center survey reported that 95 percent of teens have a smartphone or access to one, and 45 percent of teens say they are online on a near-constant basis. A study by Nokia in 2013 found that people check their smartphones 150 times per day, or every six minutes – imagine how that number has grown!
Returning campers have told us they breathe a sigh of relief as soon as they reach the pines at Camp Waukeela without a phone in hand. And they enjoy keeping in touch with family members and friends back home the “old-fashioned way” – on the camp phone or through written letters.
The Pew survey also mentioned that social media has led to more bullying and rumors. Respondents said they feel social media platforms harm relationships and result in less meaningful interactions.
Smartphones can become a crutch in difficult or awkward social situations, when with a new peer group or at a new school. They can be a barrier to making new friends, leading to stress, isolation and depression.
We understand the importance of staying connected, and we encourage our campers and counselors to stay in touch outside of camp – social media can be an excellent avenue for this. But we also believe a few weeks of digital detox can have huge benefits to girls’ health and well-being.
Unplugging at summer camp leads to stronger, more meaningful and engaged friendships. Instead of texting and checking Snapchat, campers play card games, encourage each other on the High Ropes Course and celebrate little victories like completing their first wet exit in a whitewater kayak. They even bond over the hardships of life without technology, missing the comfort of their own bed or the latest Netflix show.
There will always be a new social media platform or trend, but Camp Waukeela is consistent: The smell of the pines, the crackling campfire, story time in the cabin each night.
Camp is a safe place where it’s okay to power off, where girls can trust, grow and thrive.