I got an email today (February 28th) from Google telling me that March 1 and 2 are days to celebrate a National Day of Unplugging. Suggestions for achieving such a worthwhile goal were: a phone app to break the phone addiction, an app that tracks time spent on the phone, an app to temporarily block other apps so you won’t get distracted, and a cute app of a tree growing in the forest – as long as you don’t use your phone – otherwise it withers, complete with in-app purchases.
Google didn’t become the behemoth it is for nothing. They’re smart. They understand that getting unplugged is important for everyone. So even though I can’t resist the temptation to poke a little fun at how they suggest unplugging, I’m all in with them for the need to unplug.
I might just suggest that kids simply get outside and play, leaving their phone at home.
As a director of an overnight California summer camp for kids, I’ve long known the benefits of getting unplugged. Our sleepaway summer camp is located in California’s Tahoe National Forest where we have no cell reception. So there’s really no choice but to unplug. Here are a few of the benefits of being unplugged we see at camp:
* Everyone has to talk face-to-face with other people. There’s no texting. No Instagram. You literally have to walk over to someone to talk. When talking face-to-face, you get to see facial expressions and other body language, which gives you instant feedback on what you’re saying. If something comes out in-artfully, well you can see it on the person’s face and you have a chance at a do-over. All this helps with social skills. And with repetition, comes comfort. Social skill are needed to gain the social acceptance so craved by kids while in school. And it’s super important in business as well – how to talk to your boss, co-workers, and customers/clients. Social skills are one of the critical life skills kids need to be successful and happy.
* I know you must see people who pull out their phone whenever they have more than 30 seconds to kill – waiting for an elevator, for a bus, for a commercial to end. They crave mental stimulation. If they didn’t have their phone, they’d go crazy with boredom quickly. Pre-smart phones, it used to be that kids were forced to go out and play. They’d make up their own games. They had to be creative to be entertained. They also had to spend time thinking about what they wanted to do. It may not have been deep-level planning, but it was planning nevertheless. So getting unplugged helps with creativity. It’s like unjamming a radio broadcast where your child’s creativity is the transmission trying to get out and the phone is the jammer. Developing creativity and planning skills are two more critical life skills.
* Lastly, if our kids are unplugged, they’re more likely to get out and move. Moving equals physical exercise. Physical exercise, as we all know but frequently ignore, is healthful and necessary. And the more our kids make that a part of their everyday life, the more likely they are to continue it into adulthood and enjoy good health. If your kids were at an unplugged summer camp, you might not believe at how active they are when unleashed from their phones.
So here’s to celebrating a National Day of Unplugging. Let’s just try to do it without a phone at all!
– Scott Shaffer
Visit our camp: https://highsierracamp.com/