Rethinking Technology Bans
The dictator of this age fits in our pockets, and revolution is on the lips of the masses.
- Media Sabbath.
- National Day of Unplugging.
- Tech-free zones.
These are a few of the expressions of the uprising against the tyranny of technology. Burnt out executives are booking tech-free retreats while media-addicted souls are signing up in droves for digital detox camp.
Books with incendiary titles add fuel to the revolutionary fire:
- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
- Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other.
- And perhaps the most depressing title: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30).
People have had it with the ever on-ness of technology, with deminished relationships, and with zoned out teens.
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness…
If you listen carefully, there are a few drummers beating out a different tune. Take for example Longacre Leadership Summer Camp in the US, which contrary to the standard camp ban on technology over the summer allows campers to bring any device they like with a goal to help students find some balance. Their “Anything Goes” policy made quite the stir in early 2013 when it was picked up by major media outlets.
In the din of naysayers, the message touted by Longacre is refreshing: An all-out ban will not achieve what intentional mentoring and positive modelling can. The camp lists clear expectations about use, and when things go wrong (which they will) the mentors and camp counsellors talk through options with the student in question.
“Just because it rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it.”
Gentle, non-judgemental, in-the-moment reminders like these serve to raise awareness and rewire habits so that young people can make good choices and practise doing the desired behaviour. Times of reflection that are based on open and direct communication also reinforce the positive norms they are seeking to instil.
Longacre is seizing the opportunity to teach, “…teenagers to live with their devices in ways that are appropriate and healthy (and) help them discover that in-person connections can be more substantive and more rewarding than e-connections.”
Camp directors explain on their blog, “…you’ve got to understand, Longacre Leadership is not a traditional summer program. We help our teenagers develop their skills for back home and for the future. To do this, we treat them like they’re young adults, giving them responsibility and independence.”
Campers self-regulated, policed one-another and monitored their own usage. One girl willingly gave up her iPhone altogether, according to an article by Fast Company.
The Moral of the Story
Many parents and educators are rethinking technology bans. Such extreme measures have their use–as do Media Sabbaths, Unplugged Days, and Tech-Free Zones. The leaders at Longacre Camp seemed to recognise that a prohibition teaches nothing and instills little. It may even lead to a media binge as soon as the ban is lifted.
On the other hand, intentional mentoring and positive modelling about responsible, healthy use lays the foundation for a new skill set, one that is critical in this technological age. All of us–parents, teachers, and teens–have to learn to live with and master screentime. If we succeed, we may not see the day when we beat a path off the grid for the much craved digital detox retreat.
* Creative Commons Image by Courosa.