Get Unplugged

The January/February, 2011, issue of Stanford Magazine reported on research being done about the impact of time spent online (link to the article provided below). It gave me even more reasons to celebrate that Gold Arrow Camp gives kids an extended period of “unplugged” time.

Unplugged and Outside

Researchers at Stanford (and I’m sure elsewhere) are investigating what many of us intuitively know – all this time spent online is not good for us! What’s most frightening is that we don’t know the full impact online time is having on our kids. It’s not just their excessive online time that’s a problem, but also the time we parents spend online. How many things are we NOT doing because we’re online? And what kind of role modeling are we providing? I think it’s down time, conversations with family, reading, and the pursuit of other fulfilling hobbies that suffer when we don’t turn off our phones and computers. We need to establish technology-free zones in our families to maintain the emotional and social health of our kids and ourselves.

A Stanford researcher (Aboujaoude) found in a 2006 study that between 4-14% of people surveyed admitted that a “preoccupation with being online was interfering in various ways with their relationships, financial health, and other aspects of real life.” What must that number be now – in the Twitter, Facebook, Mommy Blogging era? Many people can’t seem to stop checking their Facebook and sending texts and tweets even while driving! And how many kids and adults are sleep-deprived from too much late night internet?

Another researcher, Naas, observed that, “It’s becoming perfectly okay to use media while we’re interacting.” His example was that he regularly has to ask college students to stop texting while they are having a meeting with him, their professor! This is just one sad symptom of our ever-devolving social abilities. We’re losing our focus on the real, face-to-face relationships that make life meaningful and not modeling for the next generations how to treat live people. I will await the results of Naas’ study on pre-teen girls and the impact of their time online on their confidence and social skills.

With researchers finding that “the internal experience today is one of hyper-anxiety,” and there has been a “devaluing of thoughtfulness,” how can we afford not to tear ourselves and our kids from our smart phones and computers?  Many parents already recognize the benefit of unplugging kids and themselves, and I hope there will be a cultural shift back to living in the moment and focusing on the people we’re with. In the meantime, I’m so grateful we have a place where kids (and the adults who work with them) can get outdoors, get off their darn computers and cell phones, and learn better skills at relating to people face-to-face!

Link to the original article: Separation Anxiety, Stanford Magazine January/February, 2011

Way Too Much of a Good Thing, Stanford Magazine, January/February, 2011

Sunshine’s Letter to the Editor, “Face Time” Stanford Magazine May/June, 2011 (scroll down)

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