Written by Audrey “Sunshine” Monke
When I read in Stanford Magazine about the research being done about the negative
impact of time spent online, it gave me even more reasons to celebrate that Gold
Arrow Camp gives kids an extended period of “unplugged” time.
of us intuitively know – all this time spent online is not good for us! What’s most
frightening is that we don’t know the full impact online time is having on our
kids. It’s not just their excessive online time that’s a problem, but also the time
we parents spend online. How many things are we NOT doing because we’re
online? And what kind of role modeling are we providing? I think it’s down time,
conversations with family, reading, and the pursuit of other fulfilling hobbies that
suffer when we don’t turn off our phones and computers. We need to establish
technology-free zones in our families to maintain the emotional and social health of
our kids and ourselves.
A Stanford researcher (Aboujaoude) found in a 2006 study that between 4-14% of
people surveyed admitted that a “preoccupation with being online was interfering
in various ways with their relationships, financial health, and other aspects of real
life.” What must that number be now – in the Twitter, Facebook, Mommy Blogging
era? Many people can’t seem to stop checking their Facebook and sending texts and
tweets even while driving! And how many kids and adults are sleep-deprived from
too much late night internet?
Another researcher, Naas, observed that, “It’s becoming perfectly okay to use media
while we’re interacting.” His example was that he regularly has to ask college
students to stop texting while they are having a meeting with him, their professor!
This is just one sad symptom of our ever-devolving social abilities. We’re losing
our focus on the real, face-to-face relationships that make life meaningful and
not modeling for the next generations how to treat live people. I will await the
results of Naas’ study on pre-teen girls and the impact of their time online on their
confidence and social skills.
With researchers finding that “the internal experience today is one of hyper-
anxiety,” and there has been a “devaluing of thoughtfulness,” how can we afford
not to tear ourselves and our kids from our smart phones and computers? Many
parents already recognize the benefit of unplugging kids and themselves, and I hope
there will be a cultural shift back to living in the moment and focusing on the people
we’re with. In the meantime, I’m so grateful we have a place where kids (and the
adults who work with them) can get outdoors, get off their darn computers and cell
phones, and learn better skills at relating to people face-to-face!