Disconnecting in Order to Connect – A Parent’s Perspective

AT Staff14 Jul, 2015

Greetings from 30,000 feet! Our four regional directors are currently flying all over the country visiting our Adventure Treks trips. More than 130 students have already completed their Adventure Treks summer experiences, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the wonderful, kind, and capable students who we have met so far this summer. We feel they have taken much away from the experience, including beautiful scenery, close communities, great relationships with their instructors, new confidence earned as a result of great accomplishment, and wonderful new friendships! We have 112 students currently in the field, and we are eager to meet the 154 students who will soon be arriving.

We thought we would share the musings of one of our parents, Dara Redler, from Atlanta, whose three children have participated in seven Adventure Treks summers. Her thoughts on technology and the Adventure Treks experience capture the essence of the joy of being technology-free at Adventure Treks for three weeks.

My son, Mason, called me from the Seattle airport to say he had arrived safely for his British Columbia Adventure and was excited. He couldn’t talk long as he had to meet the group and turn in his phone. For the next three weeks he would be hiking and camping in British Columbia with Adventure Treks, and there is a no-electronics policy, including no phone. For some parents, the thought of no call, text, tweet, post, picture or chat from their child for three weeks might seem unnerving. When my son hung up, I felt this wave of happiness.

My son is like any other teenager where that phone has become a constant appendage to his body; his head is constantly lowered looking at a screen, and his fingers type and swipe faster than a piano player. It’s not that I won’t miss the communication, but I know what “turning in his phone” is about to provide for him.

Images of the incredible landscapes will not be seen through a screen, but rather will be viewed with eyes wide open and stored in his mind forever. He will “chat” not through typed words, but will have real conversations with friends as he hikes with them side by side for hours. I smile thinking about them laughing at each other’s skits and silliness rather than laughing at videos someone else created. They will learn how to make each other laugh, and appreciate the humor each possesses.

What the students “like” will be actually shared face-to-face rather than acknowledged with a click. Their every move will not be posted or tweeted, but will be enjoyed by those experiencing it together. Games are played with each other. The only music is what they sing together. To “friend” someone is not a mere electronic gesture, but rather a sharing of special times and helping each other through these weeks. There will be no images captured of food served to them as they learn to cook for themselves and take pride in what they created. And instead of a last text saying B4N (“bye for now”), they will actually say goodnight as they fall asleep together under the stars.

As excited as I was for him, I know he was just as excited to turn in that phone and start his journey. He knows he gets to spend the next three weeks experiencing real connections with friends in incredible scenery. All of the noise about what “friends” back home did, saw, heard, ate or thought that day will not be missed at all. That appendage will return soon enough, but for now I am giddy knowing the phone is turned off and in a Ziploc bag for some time later.

We are thrilled to give our students a chance to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature and form social connections that will be stronger and more beneficial than their digital connections.

We are sad to say goodbye to our first students, and we hope the time without technology has been restorative. Having had the time of their lives without technology, we hope as they return to civilization, our students better understand that technology is a tool they can control and turn on and off as they want to. Rather than letting technology or social media dominate their social relationships and recreation, we hope the time spent at Adventure Treks puts technology in perspective. The great thing is that outdoor activities are one of the few things that can actually be more fun than digital technology.

As parents, we are the ultimate role models for our kids, so it’s always important to examine our own relationship with technology. Here are a few statistics from our friends at the Digital Detox Center that you might find interesting. Some, we must admit, hit a little too close to home!

  • The average American dedicates 30% of leisure time to perusing the web.
  • 50% of people prefer to communicate digitally than in person.
  • 67% of cellphone owners find themselves checking their device even when it’s not ringing or vibrating.
  • One out of 10 Americans report depression; heavy internet users are 2.5 times more likely to be depressed than lighter internet users.
  • The average employee checks 40 websites a day, switching activities 37 times an hour, changing tasks every two minutes.
  • The average employee spends two hours a day recovering from distractions.
  • 60% of people say traditional vacation does not relieve their stress.
  • 33% of people admit to hiding from family and friends to check social media.

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