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2018 Apr

What Matters

Just this morning as I was wondering what topic I would write about for this month’s column, a press release appeared in my email like magic with information I just have to share.

Seems there is a non-profit organization called Screen Education that is dedicated to researching the negative consequences of screen addiction. Based in Cincinnati, Screen Education completed a study last year among teens ages 12-16 (Generation Z) who attended Camp Livingston, a resident camp in Indiana.

The campers were not allowed to bring smartphones to camp and, after a four-week stay, were asked whether they felt glad or frustrated about not having access to their smart-phones. “A large number—92 percent—experienced gladness, while only 41 percent felt any frustration. We had expected the opposite,” said Michael Mercier, president of Screen Education.

“Many children said they have become overwhelmed by their smartphones,” Mr. Mercier continued. “They no longer can keep up with all their notifications, and they are burdened by the ‘drama’ they encounter through social media via their smartphones. Consequently, they were relieved to be separated from their smartphones because it eliminated that stress.”

Interesting, right? It seems the more kids (and adults!) use their smartphones, the more stressed it makes us feel.

The campers also commented on how the camp experience would have been different if they had brought their smartphones. “They almost unanimously admitted they would have spent the entire time on their phones,” said Max Yamson, executive director of Camp Livingston. “They said they would not have formed deep relationships with the staff and fellow campers, would not have connected with their surroundings and nature on the same level, and would not have engaged as much in recreational activities.”

“The research also revealed a stunning insight,” said Mr. Mercier. “Many campers discussed the experience of face-to-face communication as though it were a novel one. They exhibited a sense of discovery at learning that face-to-face communication is far superior to screen communication when it comes to building friendships and getting to know other people.”

Bingo! As a parent and grandparent, I am concerned about screen addiction and hope you are, too. We need to communicate more using our mouths and not our fingertips. We need to teach kids the value of conversation and the importance of building face-to-face relationships. Communication is key to overcoming conflict, being empathetic, and learning to embrace the many diverse cultures and races here in our own country and around the world.

I hope you take the time this month to focus on what matters in life: those little Mini-Me’s that live under our roofs and rely on us to guide them toward successful, happy lives. Put down your phone and ensure your kids have plenty of time away from screens. Make a rule that in the car no smartphones are allowed and have conversations instead. Take your kids outside and jump rope, play hopscotch, toss a Frisbee, and talk about everything going on in their lives and what their dreams are.  Then tell them yours.

It’s up to us to teach our children well.                                               

PS - I made a few boo-boos last month. I misidentified Barb Ford, founder of Untamed Spirit, in photos related to the “Connecting with Horses” story. Sorry, Barb! I also neglected to give credit to the front page photographer, Michael H. Schmitt (www.michaelhschmittphotography.com). Thanks, Michael! Last but not least, I forgot to provide the names of our cover girls: Iris Wessell (riding the horse) and Lexia Hann (leading the horse). My humble apologies to one and all.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com