Children are affected by technology more so than adults. Especially as their brains are still in the massive effort of forming. Getting them away from screens and into the outdoors can be extremely helpful. Therefore, even though it is important for adults to have a tech detox, it is just as important for children to disconnect from technology. There are many benefits of outdoor tech detoxing for children. Generally, these include an improvement in mental health, improved focus, and lowered stress. Camping and being outdoors is a great way for them to experience something new with the family while also teaching them important technology boundaries.
I don’t want to completely bash technology. Heck, you are reading this on technology right now. However, as with many things in life, balance is key. It is important to teach children to have a healthy relationship with technology much as we do with other humans or food. You may be surprised to find out that it is easier to get them off of technology than you think.
So you should get ready to take them on an exciting camping trip where they can adventure and explore!
A Time Without Tech
Some of my best times growing up were out exploring the woods with my family and friends. There was so much adventure that could happen just in the woods behind my house. I expanded that world when I started participating in organized camping trips. I was forced, well at least I thought so at the time, to be outside till the street lights came on. Looking back it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.
So where and why did that end? Why when we are younger did we seek adventure in the outdoors? We used to challenge our survival skills and made ourselves stronger. We didn’t need technology because a stick could be anything we wanted it to be. Our imagination ruled. Now we sit like lumps behind our screens with instant gratification. We lost our connection to nature and the outdoors.
So what kinds of things are necessary to get back to that imaginative exploration that we loved to do? Well, the first and most difficult part will be stepping away from technology. You will have to learn to trust your instincts a little better. Not to mention, you will need to challenge yourself to reconnect with nature, yourself, and your family. You can start to do this through tech detoxing in the outdoors.
Reconnect with nature in our first National Park. Use our Yellowstone Quick Guide to plan your trip.
Why Tech Detoxing in the Outdoors is Important
There is a significant amount of research that has gone into the benefits of being outside. We have built up a society around us that is controlled in nearly every way. While comfort is key to long-term survival, we were never meant to solely be indoors in climate control. We were meant to be outside feeling the rain softly patter on our faces, or hearing the rustle of wind through tall grass. Sure, the light at night makes us more productive each day, but have you ever looked up and seen a million starts shining back at you? It is a feeling that is surpassed by none.
All flowery feelings and writing aside there is scientific evidence that nature really does help to make us whole again. “There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human wellbeing,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature. “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”
The American Psychological Association included the previous quote and the following key benefits of tech detoxing in the outdoors.
- Spending time in nature is linked to both cognitive benefits and improvements in mood, mental health, and emotional well-being.
- Feeling connected to nature can produce similar benefits to well-being, regardless of how much time one spends outdoors.
- Both green spaces and blue spaces (aquatic environments) produce well-being benefits. More remote and biodiverse spaces may be particularly helpful, though even urban parks and trees can lead to positive outcomes.
How Does Outdoor Tech Detoxing help Children?
Okay, so that information generically sets the stage for outdoor tech detoxing for children, but what are the direct benefits? There are a few benefits that build off of the three from the APA cited above. Those include improving social skills, physical well-being, improving focus, and improving mental health.
By putting down technology children will be challenged to open up to those around them. In general, we all can benefit by learning how to communicate more effectively. This happens through active listening and learning how to read people. Where better to do this than around a campfire?!
Being outside camping and hiking will help with their physical health as well. It will challenge them to try something new and truly explore the world around them. Part of this physical exercise is learning how to focus on the dangers that may be around them. They will become more attuned to the natural world and themselves. Not to mention if you get them engaged in camp cooking! This activity teaches so many beneficial life skills that they are sure to translate these abilities to learning in the classroom.
Tips for Outdoor Tech Detoxing with Children.
This effort is going to take a lot of work and practice. You should remember that a tech detox doesn’t have to be a grand thing. It can take place slowly and over time. You may have multiple iterations as your child becomes used to the life-balancing technology. However, if you are taking a longer camping trip outdoors consider these tips to help them adjust.
1. Be the example
This is the most important step that you can take. Your children are going to take their lead from what you are doing. If they see you actively using a phone while you are camping, especially during evening downtime then they are also going to want to use technology. So it is critical in an outdoor tec detoxing for children that you model the correct behavior of putting the phone down. Instead of focusing on technology, you should focus on your family. Put them number one and listen to what they have to say.
2. Get them involved in planning
It is important that your children take ownership of the planning process. There are obviously things that they cannot help with, however, when it comes to camping there is more than you may think. For instance, they can help with picking hiking trails, daily activities like fishing, and even meal planning. These things will allow them to see that the activities they pick are not dependent on technology. Instead, when it is time to head to the waterfall they selected they will own that trip. It will be their achievement when they lead the family there!
Don’t forget that they should be able to help you pack as well. Teach them the things that should and shouldn’t be brought. Remember not to just say no. Instead, explain to them why each item can come or not. Children have a tremendous capacity for making logical connections. If they are asking why it is because they truly want to know.
3. Friends and family
You may not like this next piece of advice. Especially if you are trying to re-engage as a family. However, there may be a time when inviting your children’s friends along can aid in the detox. Think about how much easier it will be to commiserate with someone special. Not to mention the social and mental impacts of achieving something big with a friend can have. That shared experience is sure to make stronger memories. So consider allowing your children to bring a friend or two.
Generally, having a friend or outside family member along will also help to keep them busy. If they are busy doing other tasks then they won’t be thinking about the technology they are missing. This can help outdoor tech detoxing for children a little easier.
4. Make exploration important
As your children were helping to plan above I hope that you gave them a chance to pick some adventurous activities. Allowing children to pick things that will challenge them will keep them motivated. They are likely looking to explore and we shouldn’t stifle that desire. In fact, we should foster it by making exploration important. Give them the tools that they need in order to adventure and try new things. This may include books on plant and animal identification, or even bringing along a telescope.
So give your children an opportunity to splash around in a creek, scamper through sand dunes, make mud pies and climb trees. Make it okay to experience each type of sense while they are camping. Adventure through the woods and listen for animals. Sit by a waterfall and feel the spray hit your face. Better yet smell your food cooking on the campfire as you tell stories. Allow the outdoors to provide new experiences that they will remember forever.
It is not just physical exploration that you should undertake. You should also help them to explore new skills. Teaching things like building a fire or orienteering will ensure that they are capable of supporting themselves. You may also think about learning to cook as a family. Building new skills is an important part of outdoor tech detoxing for children because it replaces bad tech habits with useful life skills.
5. Cook as a family
Many cultures around the world value cooking together. It is a time to share stories and experience new things. In the day-to-day drum of life, we rarely spend time cooking with our children anymore. Whether it is because we are running between after-school activities or working late into the night, we simply don’t take the time to cook together. Luckily, camping offers an opportunity to slow down. We can take our time and cook with our children. If they helped to plan the meal then they will be even more invested in cooking!
Not only will you be engaging them in an important life skill, but you will also be making memories. Camp cooking doesn’t always work out. Sometimes those really bad meals are where the memories are made. I have had a few camp cooking fails. Trust me my kids still talk about them, but you know what, they were right there with me. We laugh at the memories together and there wasn’t a piece of technology in sight.
6. Explore the night
Nighttime can be a scary time for children. Especially younger ones. However, camping puts us out of our normal behaviors anyways. So this is the perfect opportunity to break the boundary with your children. Gather around the campfire and tell stories. Listen to the tales that they have. Make them the priority and they will see that technology isn’t necessary to make connections, have fun, and make memories.
The time right before bed is also the most likely time that children are going to want to pull technology out. This is because the day is coming to an end and they, much like us, feel they need something to do. So break out the telescope and explore the stars. Even better go on a night hike and see if you can spot a moonbow. Listen for the nocturnal life that comes to life after the sun sets. If you have activities planned then they won’t need their technology.
If they still need something to keep them occupied as they drift off to sleep in their sleeping bag then bring some books. Reading is a great thing to do while camping. It is quiet and calming. Not to mention that at nighttime they can ink low in the sleeping bag with a flashlight. There is something about sneaking a good book after lights out that is very special!
Final Thoughts on Outdoor Tech Detoxing for Children
Nature doesn’t have to be as rough and ready as it once was. The important part is that you are stepping outside. Not just physically but mentally as well. We have to allow ourselves to be transported to a time when technology didn’t rule. Only then can the outdoors tech detoxing for children actually begin.
Think about times when you were happiest as a child. They weren’t sitting behind a computer responding to emails. Yes, we may have had enjoyment from our favorite cartoon. It transported us somewhere different. Nothing compares to exploring the world around us. Holding a fallen leaf in our hand, or smelling the smoke curling from a fire. These are sensory things that technology cannot provide to us. These are important. Smells, touch, tastes, and sights all aid in our ability to create memories. They add to a rich experience that cannot be provided through a screen. That is why being outdoors and camping is the best way to take a tech detox.
Following the six steps above are sure to make outdoor tech detoxing for children easier than you think. It doesn’t have to be a fight to get your children to put the technology down. Instead, engage them in an exciting outdoor adventure that will improve them as a person.