The youth of today is in dire need of a collective summer camp adventure. Why? Simple; in our interconnected and wired world, our children (and adults) are increasingly tethered to their digital devices, working tirelessly to maintain digital profiles. As social as these exercises seem, they are in fact becoming more of a way to isolate oneself and stunt social interactivity, rather than a tool to encourage it.
According to a summer camp research study done by Troy Glover at the University of Waterloo’s Healthy Communities Research Network in Canada, kids who attended a summer camp experienced significant growth and positive change in many key areas. Glover said:
“Sending kids to camp allows children to grow and learn good citizenship, social integration, personal development and social development, exploring his or her capabilities and being in a safe environment where they can grow, gain independence and take risks.”
In this age of 24-hour news, many parents are bombarded with stories about child endangerment in our communities, leading to a tendency to over-protect with a vigilance bordering on paranoia. The truth is, our communities are generally safe, and while parents should still take reasonable precautions, the dangers of over-protection are just now being realized. The unintended consequence of digital isolation may have a negative impact on early childhood development.
Summer adventure camp shifts the focus away from the individual, and teaches campers to be more selfless and become better team players. Learning team and individual goal setting, conflict resolution, and overcoming challenges lead to improved individual confidence and self-worth. Campers have expressed feelings of increased self-confidence, and a stronger sense of their own individuality.
We have all heard children proudly exclaim, “Look what I can do!” This proclamation of accomplishment comes from doing something they hadn’t done before, and gaining the confidence to do it again. Children and adults alike build self-esteem and confidence by challenging their fears and doubts, and winning.
The Value of Play
It has been reported that children spend four to six hours a day in front of TVs, computers, and cell phone screens. Children lack the time to play in natural settings. These activities (or rather, lack thereof) have led to increased childhood obesity, anxiety issues, and social inhibitions that manifest themselves silently.
Actually playing in an outdoors setting versus virtually playing is profoundly different. The exhilaration and sense of accomplishment experienced by reaching the top of a climbing wall can only be felt by actually climbing it. Flying along on a zip-line and feeling the rush of adrenaline cannot be duplicated in a virtual setting.
The Benefit of Leadership
The leadership skills that are learned in a summer camp adventure are irreplaceable. Many current leaders in government, education, and business point to summer camp as a pivotal and instructive point in their lives. Best-selling author Seth Godin wrote, “Camp does two things at once. It lets kids be kids, and it encourages them to solve interesting problems.” Solving interesting problems in life is what separates the leaders from the followers in our society.
“Making” Friends (Not “adding” friends)
The popular social networking site Facebook encourages users to make friends, seek out others, and add to a growing list of personal contacts in a sort of popularity tally. The line between “acquaintance”(someone you have met, but do not know very well) and “friend” (someone you really know, care about, and can rely on) may have been forever blurred. There is a huge difference between “adding” friends and “making” friends.
A summer camp adventure allows campers to forge real, long-lasting friendships and contribute to more meaningful relationships that support, nurture, and add diversity of opinion to the social development of children.
Consider a summer camp adventure for your own child or a youth that you know could benefit from the experience. Extraordinary changes and lifelong lessons are the two results most often recounted by summer camp veterans. The benefits of a summer camp adventure are immeasurable!