According to a recent article in The Washington Post entitled “Teens who spend less time in front of screens are happier”, Silicon Valley executives “have been speaking out about the purposefully addictive designs of smartphones and social media, which make them hard to put down for anyone, but particularly teenagers. Now, a new report puts numbers to the warnings by tying a sudden and large drop in adolescents’ happiness with the proliferation of smartphones and finding that the more hours a day teens spend in front of screens, the less satisfied they are.”

Why Unplug to Connect?

Recently, the Toronto Boys and Girls Club began their “Unplug to Connect” initiative, in response to this alarming research; “Teenagers today have spent their entire adolescence in a world with smartphones, and the feeling of constantly being “plugged in” is having a significant impact on their overall happiness.  While the internet and social media can be great resources for children and youth, it’s also critical that they have space to unplug and engage with others in a meaningful way.”

An ongoing study by the University of Michigan found that the more hours a week that adolescents spend using screens, the less happy they are. Even more disturbing, self-esteem, life satisfaction, and happiness among teens declined significantly after 2012, when smartphone ownership reached 50% in the United States.”

In response to these alarming trends, The Boys and Girls Club of Toronto have instituted their “Unplug to Connect” initiative with the following manifesto; “We understand that in order to be happy and healthy, children and youth need to be a part of a community where supportive relationships are fostered, and where they have the opportunity to explore the world around them. At Boys and Girls Clubs across the country, kids spend time away from smartphones and computers every single day—playing together, learning together, and being mentored by caring adults.”

Beginning this summer, the Explorations Team are going to follow this example and heed the abundant research that exists regarding overexposure and dependency issues related to compulsive, digital device usage.

Our Campers will be encouraged to bring and use their digital devices when engaged in scheduled activities that take advantage of technology. However, we will be establishing “no-phone zones” and “unplug to connect” places and times of the day to encourage camper interaction with one another.

Campers will be encouraged to spend “down time” together, without the intrusion of technology. They will be encouraged to participate in activities that will allow them to interact with their friends, and share the kind of experiences that can only happen when children put aside their phones and make time for real connection.

We will be establishing “unplugging” guidelines and advisories in the weeks to come, before the beginning of camp. We look forward to further reporting to you the greater engagement of our Summer of 2019 campers.