By Dr. Sue Hubbard
For the News-Gazette
As summer comes to a close and school starts, I am doing a lot of checkups, especially with the tweens and teens that are getting ready for school sports. I have been asking all of them about their summers: camp, vacations, volunteer work, travel. Interestingly, many of them commented about being without their electronics for one reason or another. (In several cases their parents were insistent that the family “go off the grid” for their vacation, while some went to camp where they were not allowed to have electronics and a few others were in such remote places the internet was just not available.)
So, what did they have to say about putting up their cellphones and laptops? Surprisingly, many of them ended up liking it! Now, they did say that the whole “idea” of no electronics put them in a total tailspin. But after a few days of not reaching for the ubiquitous cellphone every 30 seconds to check for texts and not feeling as if they had to take a “selfie” of every moment to share with their friends, the whole experiment (whether forced or not) ending up being quite freeing for them.
Lots of the teens talked to their friends or family using spoken words. No typing. The entire family, at times, was engaged in conversation about many topics where everyone was talking together and not isolated by the screen and individual texts. Lots of my patients said that they enjoyed the scenery without feeling as if they had to document each minute with their camera phone. They took in their surroundings through their own lens, making it seem even more memorable.
Many of the teens also worked on their summer reading with less stress, as they read throughout the summer and actually “enjoyed” it. They did not find themselves trying to read 500 to 600 pages in two nights before school started. Some even remarked that they had missed reading books and having the quiet time.
All in all, they did say that as difficult as it is to “disconnect,” it is probably a good thing to do once in a while. They were not giving up their cellphones (CRAZY IDEA), but they did realize that they may spend an excessive amount of time trying to stay connected, when they are really not connected at all.
So let’s all try to commit to cutting back on electronics for the school year and going back to some basics: conversation, family meals, reading at bedtime (not on electronics) and no screens in the bedroom. Agreed?
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com.