How many times a day do you deal with technology? As I sit and contemplate this myself, I realize that, in this increasingly technological world, I am immersed in a lifestyle that leaves me reaching for my cell phone to send texts just as much as I make calls and posting tweets between emails and blog updates. As an adult I have grown to use and depend on technology for many things in my every day life. It would be difficult for me to accomplish anything without a constant connection to the internet, social media or my laptop.
Todayʼs teens are deeply embedded in technology and social media; cell phones and the internet are a vital requirement in their lives. Many teens are so enveloped in gadgets and gizmos that these communication technologies have become an extension of who they are: new-age Inspector Gadgets with tools, tips and tricks that can solve (and in some cases, create) almost any problem.
So, if I feel like Iʼm constantly “plugged in,” what is it like to be a tech savvy teen?
Last June, CBC Radioʼs Spark (www.cbc.ca/spark) host, Nora Young, ran a program that discussed teens and texting. Her listeners lamented about teens texting at the dinner table and racking up bills with over 2000 texts a month. Stats revealed that the average number of texts sent and received by American teens worked out to around 80 texts a day. 80 texts a day! And thatʼs just texts; many teens add checking email, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, streaming TV and movies, playing video games, instant messaging and other forms of social media to their arsenal of daily online actions. In fact, a study released in January 2010 through the Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kff.org) divulged that “8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ʻmedia multitaskingʼ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.”
Thatʼs a lot of time. Now, having a teen who is connected to social media, entertainment media and a variety of communication technology is not necessarily bad; teens can learn a lot from these sources and staying connected and “in-the-know” is very important to them. Itʼs when these mediums are used in excess that thereʼs reason for concern. These kinds of technology can cause a loss of impetus in teens when it comes to staying active and engaging in face-to-face conversations.
Itʼs easy to think of camp as being a place for elementary school-aged children, but the programmes, games, activities and excitement that camps provide are just as necessary for todayʼs teens. With all these “plugged in” youth, camp is the perfect way to get teenagers to step back and take a breath of fresh air – literally.
At Cairn, where I am the Co-Director, we think itʼs essential to supply teens with specialized programming that allows them to learn and play in a teen-centric way. At Cairn, teens can jump into a world that takes their interests, thoughts, concerns and ideas and transforms them into real-life discussions, actions and traditions. We unplug from the technologically-infused world; cell phones are left at home and Facebook posts are put on pause. Instead of texting about learning to belay someone up the climbing wall, teens learn the task and celebrate their achievement immediately with their peers and the staff. Through both fun and challenging activities and discussions, teens find talent and artistry in themselves and head home with new purpose and direction.
As much as we all need and use technology every day, itʼs always great to get back to the basics and just learn, interact and relax without Google or Facebook to guide you. There are many great camps out there that offer teen programming and, at Cairn, we can help you support your teens physically, emotionally and spiritually. We’re ready to help them become better leaders, teachers and facilitators while still offering big fun, great friends and a lifetime of amazing memories.
So even if the cell phone comes out the moment your teen gets in the car after camp, we suspect that, despite the lack of communication technology for a week, the first message sent will not be about how much he missed having a phone, but about the great time he had at camp.
Cairn (view their online listing on our Camps.ca website) has 12 different teen-centered camps and programmes that we think your teen could really benefit from: Wilderness Specialty, Young Women’s Leadership Camp, Pre-LIT, Pay It Forward, Adventure Camp, MAD Camp, White Water Trip: the Spanish, White Water Trip: the Temagami, Algonquin Senior Canoe, Teen Week, Senior High Retreat & Leader In Training.
Cairn Presbyterian Camping is located in Baysville, Ontario, and on the internet at: www.ilovecamp.org. For summer camp registration, or to ask about our teen programmes, please contact us today!
[Rebecca Jess is the Co-Director of Cairn Presbyterian Camping & Retreat Centres, a non-profit organization that runs summer camp programmes for children and families, based in Muskoka, ON.]