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I probably shouldn’t start a camp blog like this, but here goes — Thank goodness I’m finished with parenting elementary and middle school kids. I didn’t quit; mine grew up. It means no more chauffeuring, homework, emotional ups and downs, and worry about what I might have done wrong! The latter two were probably amplified because one of the assets of being in a child-oriented business is that folks tend to send us articles they find interesting from a parenting, education of child development perspective.

I think it’s months old, but just saw a report from Developmental psychologist Dr. Rachel Barr. Dr. Barr reports that when growing youth spend excessive amounts of time focused on screens, they score lower on thinking and language tests. Now, I can’t vouch for validity or impact on your kids, (or even the study itself) but, I’m very intrigued that someone is finally attempting to do measurable research.

Similarly, the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics recently published results demonstrating that too much screen time may physically slow and alter the development of a preschooler’s brain. “Too much,” by the way, is defined as more than two hours daily. (Again, I’m no expert in study accuracy, but scary stuff.)

You may be surprised to discover that kids between the ages of 8 and 12 spend an average of six hours a day on screens, while teens clock nearly nine hours (over half of their awake time).

Screen time refers to phones, computers, video games, and television.  The usefulness of these devices ranges from sublimely helpful to amusingly entertaining to mind-numbing waste of time. But let’s be clear — None of these is going away. Still, we can learn to use them in moderation.

Dr. Barr says, “Parents can help curb screen time by setting time limits and ground rules, like keeping screens out of the bedroom… Setting up a family media plan, being mindful of your own media use and your child’s media use, even though you’re being bombarded by all of these changes in media yourself.”

I’m proud to proclaim that during the summer at Camp La Junta, our campers are nearly zero percent screen time.  Though our screen is 10 feet wide, it’s only used a couple of hours a week for movie-watching. Instead, we hold fast to our heritage of face-to-face playtime, impromptu tag games, and neck-deep Guadalupe River frolicking. It’s our preferred way to grow and develop. We’re excited that the research world is supporting us, and we encourage you to join in if you haven’t already!

In the meantime, we wish you and yours Happy Holidays. Eat well. Laugh loud. Cherish the season. Consider limiting those screens — except the giant ones that feature Rudolph, of course.

Life is Good. Camp is Better (even without screens).

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