There has been a lot in the news recently about gadget and smartphone addiction among teens, pre-teens and even young children. It’s reached the point where two investor groups have urged Apple to play a role in curbing smartphone use. They cite studies on the negative effects on children’s health of smartphones and social media.
It’s been obvious to parents, teachers and us at SuperCamp for some time that teens, in particular, are becoming more detached as they get lost in their mobile phones, video games and other digital devices. A 2016 article in the New York Post quoted Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of neuroscience at UCLA, as referring to all screens, from mobile phones to computers, as “digital heroin.” Their impact on the brain’s frontal cortex is the same as cocaine.
At SuperCamp, we show students how they can become less reliant on their devices, while using them productively in the classroom and outside of school. It’s our way of targeting this phenomenon of gadget addiction among teens and pre-teens.
We start by having students turn in all of their electronic devices when they check into camp. They get to use these items each day for 15-20 minutes. But that’s it!
Culture is key. We create an engaging environment that encourages greater interaction among our students. All of the course work is interactive, as we emphasize teamwork. We place each student on a team of 12-15 campers, with each team having a team leader.
Students bond over team-building activities including an outdoor adventure course, board breaking and general group interaction. Much of the training combines exercises with the full camp of 100 to 125 students and practicing what the students have been taught within their smaller team groups.
Additionally, we utilize visual, auditory and kinesthetic teaching strategies to ensure that all students are engaged at all times. We frequently intersperse the training with music and fun to further promote interaction among and engagement with the campers.
Over the course of a SuperCamp program, students learn that they can exist, and actually thrive, without being “wired” 24/7. Without their devices, we have the benefit of having the students’ undivided attention. Plus, this “pattern interrupt” of separating students from their mobile phones opens them up to the world around them, immerses them in the SuperCamp experience and encourages interaction with fellow students.
The life skills portion of our curriculum is heavily weighted to the development of non-digital communication and interpersonal skills and collaboration. We teach students how to articulate their thoughts and how to manage conflict through effective communication techniques. We help students move out of their natural comfort zone, which includes speaking to and sharing with their team. They even learn effective techniques for communicating with their parents.
The bottom line—after SuperCamp, students return home more social, more confident in their ability to interact with other and less inclined to hide behind their devices as an escape from interpersonal contact.