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By Sarah Laury, LCSW – May 7

Growing up, one of my favorite parts of summer was going away to summer camp. I counted down the days until school was out and I could start packing for camp. I loved meeting new friends, singing camp songs, learning about nature, and all of the camp games and activities.

I enjoyed returning summer after summer to see the friends that I had met the previous year and the camp counselors that I had gotten to know over the years. As a kid, I loved camp because of the friendships and experiences it offered. I had no idea that I was gaining important life skills that would benefit me throughout my adolescence and into adulthood. 

Most kids today spend around 180 days a year in a structured school environment. Many schools offer 20 minutes or less of recess per day, and most middle schools don’t offer recess at all. Kids are going home to a heavy workload of homework and then sitting in front of the television or playing video games.

According to a study by Common Sense Media, kids between the ages of 8 and 12 spend nearly 6 hours a day on some type of technology. In contrast, the average kid spends only 4-7 minutes playing outside. These numbers show a dramatic shift from the way time was spent by kids a couple of decades ago. 

The number of kids diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and ADHD has skyrocketed over the past couple of decades. Some experts believe that there is a correlation between the amount of screen time that kids are exposed to as well as lack of time spent playing outside and the rising rates of mental health issues among kids today.

Kids are stimulated by nature in ways that can never be replicated with screen time or video games. In nature, kids are generally more active and are using their imagination to engage in creative play and exploration.   

Another benefit of summer camp is the opportunity to be part of a community and develop social skills and relationships. In our society, much “socializing” among adolescents and teens is done over social media. At camp, kids are forming relationships and practicing social skills with their peers face-to-face in a community setting.

Most camps focus heavily on relationship building through ice breakers and team building activities. These activities allow kids to develop social skills, work cooperatively with their peers, feel a sense of belonging, and increase self-esteem.

As parents, we have to decide how much freedom we are going to give our kids to make their own decisions and solve their own problems. Decision making and problem-solving skills are both invaluable life skills.

At camp, children are presented with many decisions every day. Most importantly, kids are also exposed to the consequences of the decisions they make. For instance, if they choose to wear their wet socks from yesterday instead of the clean socks in their duffle bag, their feet will probably hurt. Do they try the high ropes course that they have repeatedly fallen off of one more time or do they give up? 

Trying new things (and trying again when they don’t succeed) is what builds resiliency and self-confidence in kids.  Summer camp is the perfect venue for developing these important life skills.   

By Whitney Eaton, LCSW, Sept. 18, 2018 –

I am sure many of you have heard of the video game craze that is disrupting our children’s ability to socialize, spend time with family, complete homework, and focus at school.  I call it the “Fortnite Battle.”

I have a child who spends every available moment playing this video game.  Fortnite: Battle Royale is an online game that many children are currently enthralled with.  At school, all the talk is about the battle someone won last night or the new “skin” or “emote” they bought.

Like me, you may be wondering just what all of that means. I decided it was time to learn more about it and thought it would be helpful to share some information about Fortnite.

First, what is this game?  In Fortnite: Battle Royale, 100 players compete against each other to be the last person standing in player vs. player combat.  Basically, the game starts out with players being dropped on an island.

While exploring, the player is able to arm himself with resources such as traps and weapons.  If the player comes across another player they engage in battle.  A storm approaches, which causes players to move closer together.  In a battle that lasts 20 minutes, the goal is to be the last one standing.

The player is also able to build traps, stairs, and walls to help gather resources or defeat another player.  Another option is to just play with four players.  You can invite people to play with you.  This battle is one hour and you have unlimited lives.

So, why is this game so addictive?  The game definitely has many appealing features.  The graphics are cartoon-like.  It has lots of bright colors and crazy “skins,” outfits the players wear.  Some skins cost money, and of course kids want the coolest and newest skin available.

The game has been described as being a cross between Minecraft and Call of Duty.  It is a multi-person shooting game in an unrealistic setting, but surprisingly there is not a lot of blood and gore.

The game can also be silly at times.  The players know all the latest dance moves, called “emotes.”  Yes, your player can dance “The Floss” while engaging in battle.  In addition to dancing, players can also play basketball or beach volleyball.

Fortnite is rapidly becoming the way in which many teens socialize.  A player can talk with other players throughout the game.  Players are hosting tournaments where they can win prizes.  Also, when friends come over, a favorite activity is often playing Fortnite, watching the other person play, or watching random people play the game on YouTube.

Some students I spoke with shared some wonderful insight into the game.  Fortnite: Battle Royale is free and can be played on many different platforms including, Xbox One, Play Station 4, computers, and tablets.  You don’t have to be skilled to play.  You can basically hide out and gather resources through a major part of the battle.  Also, the creators of the game introduce new aspects of the game all the time.  New skins, new emotes, and new resources are often added.

As a parent, I want to know how my child is spending his time, especially if he is playing with others online.  Sitting with him while he played a Fortnite battle definitely helped me understand the game better and allowed me to make a more informed decision about letting him play.  I hope these points allow you to make more informed decisions about your child’s gaming time.