Living with Technology: Surprise! Life unplugged can flourish
Published 6:06 am, Wednesday, September 16, 2015
How many of us could go more than a day or two without our electronics: mobile phone, computer, television?
My 10-year-old son went six weeks without any. It was his idea and he loved it.
It’s not quite like my son said he wanted to be without electronics. Rather, over the summer, he went to summer camp. It’s a traditional YMCA summer camp with cabins, sports, a lake, canoes, camping and more.
My son really likes camp.
Last year, when he was 9 years old, he informed my wife and me that he was going to sleep-away camp that summer. He went to four different camps over the summer and loved it.
Earlier this spring, he announced to us that he was going to six weeks of summer camp at a single camp. Didn’t want to change camps at all.
I think the deciding factor was the breakfast buffet that he raved about.
But part of most traditional summer camps is that the campers don’t bring electronics. Nothing. Neither does the camp have computers for them to use. No Xboxes, Playstations, Wiis or anything else.
Instead, the camp counselors keep the kids busy with activities that the kids love. Running around the woods, playing every sport imaginable, swimming, hiking, riding horses, ziplining. The list goes on.
And every night, the kids are exhausted.
We visited our son every couple of weeks. He gave us a might hug, we took him for ice cream, he showed us around the camp and told us about his friends and activities. Then he sent us on our way. Because he had stuff to do.
Now that he’s home, he loves to connect with his friends on Minecraft, STEAM and the Xbox. But he still loves to be active outdoors with his friends and uses the computer when he has spare time.
What this has taught me as a parent is that if I can keep my child active, he doesn’t need or miss the electronics. But when there’s idle time and the electronics are available, they will occupy as much of his time as we allow.
What we saw at the summer camps made me want to go to summer camp. Add to it six weeks without email, Facebook and all of the other everyday distractions makes summer camp even more attractive. I may not want to leave.
Mark Mathias, a 35-year information technology executive, lives in Westport. His columns can be read at http://blog.mathias.org online. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.