One-quarter of nine and 10-year-old children in Canada have their own cellphones.
By the time they get to Grade 6, more than 40 per cent will have their own devices and by high school, that number jumps to 90 per cent, and it’s been estimated that, on average, we all check our phones about once every 12 minutes.
And although there are doubtlessly many positive aspects to the hyper-connectivity of today’s society, there are also serious pitfalls.
We’ve all read about the dangers of online predators, cyberbullying, internet addiction, pornography, and the loss of privacy related to cellphones.
But Vancouver Island’s Camp Thunderbird has highlighted what is perhaps the most insidious aspect of burying our existence in our devices and it’s a problem that rarely gets discussed.
The loss of imagination.
Camp Thunderbird, you see, believes that part of its job is to let children use new experiences to lead them to the consideration of what else is possible. Phones don’t do that.
So, at Camp Thunderbird, there are no phones – no online devices of any kind – allowed.
The children and, yes, even the counsellors, spend their days swimming, hiking and exploring. They practice archery, they learn to paddle canoes, and, more than anything, they talk.
They also laugh.
It’s laughter that isn’t signified by an “LOL” or an insipid laughing emoji. It’s true laughter, the infectious sort that rings through the air and feeds the soul.
And, instead of checking their phones to see if anyone has “friended” them, the children are actually busy making friends; friendships can last for years, if not a lifetime.
It’s a radical concept and one that too many of us have forgotten.
It hearkens back to a time when childhood and imagination walked hand in hand and when children spread the wings of their minds to take wing on flights of fancy and the contemplation of the impossible.
It was a time of making friends and dreaming of the future.
If summer camps like Camp Thunderbird manage to do nothing more than to allow children to escape the YouTube videos, Facebook nonsense, online games, and incessant text messages that have replaced conversations, they have done a great service to us all.
Perhaps we should all take a page from Thunderbird’s book and, every so often, take a break from our devices.
We can only imagine the result.