Mention the word “unplug” to any Internet-using teenager headed to summer camp and you’re likely to get a less-than-enthused response. But WNYC’s New Tech City host Manoush Zomorodi recently visited Longacre Camp in rural Newport, Penn., where, for the first time in the camp’s 40-year-old history, teens were encouraged to bring any device they wanted.
Rather than banning electronics, the camp’s director hoped that implementing a free-usage policy would help teens learn how to balance their technology usage with the rest of their life activities. At Longacre, Zomorodi says teens eventually began self-policing each other when their music-listening and texting got out of hand–one girl even voluntarily gave up her smartphone altogether.
The real question is what happens when teens get back into the grind of life away from camp, when voluntarily unplugging can seem less tempting. A recent Pew Internet report shows 74% of teens access the Internet from mobile devices, which are often at their fingertips. Some adults have begun heading to “digital detox camps” to seek voluntary respite from the buzzes and pings of plugged-in life (Fast Company contributing editor Matt Haber documented his detox for the New York Times). But the idea of spending time away from devices entirely might be less appealing to teens who have grown up around screens their entire lives.
Thinking about unplugging? Check out our complete (printable) guide to unplugging here.
[Image: Flickr user Murtaza Mahmud]