As the use of digital devices continues to increase among young people, their communication and social skills are failing to develop at a sufficient pace.
The issue is intensifying, but it’s been evident for some time now. In 2015, Michael Rich, Director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health, said: “[Young people] have more connectivity than ever—and far less connectedness to others and to the world. Not only are they disconnected in the moment, but this focus on devices can hinder their development of social skills needed to communicate with others in-person.”
We all acknowledge the new doors opened and the tasks made easier by technology. But, as with everything, balance is the key. Mr. Rich went on to say, “Mobile phones are just tools and, used in healthy and safe ways, can help us communicate and stay connected (or reconnect) to people we love and can help us form new relationships with others all over the world. Technology only distances us when we misuse these tools by allowing them to come between us rather than connecting us.”
One of the misuses of technology is how young people will “hide behind” their devices as a way to avoid interaction with others. Not only does this inhibit their ability to develop communication and social skills that are critical to success in their college, career and personal life, but it prevents them from learning how to “read” people and become a good listener—more skills that a person needs as they advance in school and life.
SuperCamp has known how important it is for teens and pre-teens to develop social skills since long before the rise of smartphones and the many other digital distractions now available to all of us, including kids from 2 to 20. In fact, a significant portion of our life skills training revolves around communication and social skills.
Students at SuperCamp learn a number of communication and listening techniques, which they get to test out in their small teams, made easier by the comfort level they soon build with their teammates. Over the course of camp, they gain confidence in their ability to interact. By closing ceremonies, parents are often astounded to see their son or daughter get up on stage and share their SuperCamp experience with a roomful of 150 or more people.
When they return home, will they continue to use their digital devices? Of course they will. But they won’t be afraid to engage with their peers, to ask questions in class and to make presentations. They’ll be better listeners too, which helps them in every aspect of their life, from school to taking on leadership roles. Communication is key!