It’s almost time for the annual family camping trip where we head north to a lake just west of Yosemite California. The 10 hour drive is well worth it. The area is so remote that cell phone coverage is next to impossible – even the satellite radio cuts in and out. We literally spend an entire week away from the outside world. I look forward to this trip every year as my own personal ‘un-plugging’ therapy. My kids feel otherwise – at least about the ‘unplugging’ part.
Don’t get me wrong: they absolutely love going to the lake – they love going out on the boat, hiking the trails, and hanging out with family. The hurdle they will have to overcome is that they will have to live without their precious media outlets. My daughter will have to live without texting and my son without video games. They quickly adapt (takes approximately one day), but just like an addict they go through ‘technology withdrawals’.
An article in the New York Times indicated that teenagers send and receive an average of 2,272 texts per month – almost 80 messages a day! Combine this with Facebook and/or Twitter posts, internet searches, Television, and video games, our kids are saturated in media daily basis. It is part of their lifestyle and their daily routine, and it is no wonder that when they are told to unplug (typically due to being grounded and losing their phone privileges) a protest is likely.
What I find really interesting is their lack of ability to truly articulate their feelings when they do lose their texting privileges. Even with the constant communication they do, they are unable to formulate a compelling argument on why they should be allowed to continue texting! I believe that it’s because they don’t have as much practice in verbal communication as I did at their age. After all, texting typically occurs in short 180 character messages. They rarely call a friend on the phone and instead rely on the written (texting) for their comment/question. Their messages are shorter and perhaps even more thought through. Having an actual conversation involves verbalizing your feelings immediately rather than taking a few minutes longer on how to respond to a text received – There is no backspace or edit capabilities in a verbal conversation. It makes me wonder what impact this type of messaging will have on our kids when they enter into the working world?
I think this trip is exactly what the doctor ordered. Each year we are brought closer and have great memories of the annual lake trip. And sure enough when we come down from the mountain the phones will come out and the texting will begin again – until next year’s trip when we do it all over again.