Summer camps are finding creative ways to address “nature deficit disorder” among youth through a greater range of activities and specialty camps designed to help them unplug from technology and immerse themselves in nature.
Nearly half of the estimated 14 million American kids going to summer camp this year will attend Christian-focused programs, “from camps run by one or two staff people for a few dozen campers, to camps with 100-plus staffers that serve more than a thousand guests at a time,” Gregg Hunter, resident of the Christian Camp Conference Association, told Religion News.
Christan Camp Conference Association’s 860 camps will host the bulk of Christian students – an estimated 5.5 million in 2018 – at places like the Miracle Ranch horsemanship camp in Washington State, Redwood Canopy Tour zip line adventures in California, a robotics themed Character Camp targeted toward African American campers in Texas, and an all-boys Deerfoot camp that teaches outdoor skills and canoe-building in New York’s Adirondacks.
“Christian camping gives kids the opportunity to get way, clear their heads, unplug from tech and hear a message of God’s love for them,” Hunter said, adding that CCCA camps require youngsters to drop off their smartphones at registration.
“Counselors are equipped to deal with withdrawal symptoms,” he said. “But after the first day or two or three, kids are actually looking at each other and talking to each other instead of texting.”
And while some camps are expecting slightly higher numbers in 2018 than previous years, others have struggled to fill camps as youth attendance at church has declined in recent decades. With fewer students in Sunday school, Melinda Trotti said the Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ has diversified programs at its Pilgrim Lodge on Cobbosseecontee Lake to keep it in operation.
“In addition to hosting camps for families, grandparents and their grandchildren, and a camp for those 55 and over called Vintage Ventures, they have also launched Camp Pride for high school students who are gay, lesbian, transgender or transitioning,” according to Religion News.
“They come here and are not just welcomed and understood, but are affirmed,” Trotti, Pilgrim Lodge’s interim director, told the news site. “People need places where we sing together, eat together, serve food to each other and participate in worship together, especially at a time when we see increasing social media use and greater loneliness, anxiety and depression among young people.”
Research from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture shows many parents – whether they’re religious or not - are struggling controlling technology use at home, and they’re concerned about the negative influences it’s having on their kids.
“Many parents feel their attempts to control the home environment and to keep external influences at bay are nearly futile in the face of new communication and entertainment technologies,” according to the Institute’s “Culture of American Families” report.
Harvard University’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning takes a deeper look at “Technology and Student Distraction” by examining the advantages and disadvantages laptops, mobile devices and other electronics pose for students and teachers.