- Nick M. Teich, PhD, LCSW
Camps, what are you doing differently in the new year?
One of the first articles I read as we crossed into 2023 was this one, about how the Seattle school system is suing big tech for the mental health issues of their students. That is a simplification of the article and the issues it raises. Essentially, we have all heard this premise over and over again: social media, tech at our fingertips, and the internet in general have contributed to youth and adult depression and anxiety, higher suicidality rates, and other issues.
If kids are not on their phones or devices during camp, does that make the problems less prominent? Of course not. If they are glued to social media 45+ weeks of the year and off during overnight camp (day camps can only keep them off during camp hours), then we as camps can't undo all the feelings that have become deeply held over the course of time. Furthermore, withdrawal from social media or devices may play a part in increasing anxiety or depression, especially in the beginning of camp.
No one is trying to say that social media and related online networks are the sole cause of greater anxiety, depression, and less ability for resilience that many camps are seeing in their campers and staff. It certainly seems to be a large contributing factor, but it is difficult to say whether youth who have other factors at play that favor feelings of depression and anxiety might have had these issues without the advent of social media (Vidal, et al., 2020). Though the causes are important to research and ultimately understand, what camps must do - no matter what - is prepare for anxiety, depression, and other mental health to be ever-present at camp now and in the future.
What are you doing this summer to prepare and support your campers and staff? Is it different from what you have done in summers past? Do you feel like it is affecting your program in ways it didn't years ago? Feel free to reach out to keep the conversation going. Here's to a wonderful summer of 2023!