How many of you have switched off for three or five weeks - completely - in the last year?
03 September 2019 13:05
By Honor Wilson-Fletcher, British Exploring Society CEO
Going on one of our expeditions should help a Young Explorer think about tackling risk, brushing up on their problem-solving, teamwork, tolerance and improved decision-making. There’s considerable evidence that the lack of opportunities for young people in developed countries to experience ‘normal’ levels of childhood risk is impairing their ability to make good judgements to keep themselves safe as they get older - so we’re committed to help young people develop this resilience as part of our work.
In the digital age we talk a lot about safety ‘online’ too. Our relationship with our ‘device’ is a complex one. Social media plays a vital role in maintaining connections. We link together in totally different ways now. Many digital products are engineered to encourage constant use, with Likes, notifications and infinite scrolling to keep us online and sharing data. And sharing and staying in touch online can be huge fun, informative and important - so opting out is properly hard - and should we?
There is academic backing to support the value of a digital detox now and again. It helps ease stress, fend off the potential for addiction, can improve concentration and focus, and liberate the detoxee from external pressures for the period of detox. If it also helps the individual make better judgements and become more selective when they return on-line, all the better.
Our expeditions used to trek out of ‘mobile zones’ fairly promptly, taking the issue of the ‘digital detox’ out of the hands of our Explorers (and Leaders) and providing all the benefits of a period away from ‘social’. But that’s not the case anymore. There are masts, increasingly, everywhere. So we can only provide a detox if everyone ‘opts in’. Most ‘first world’ adolescents are used to near-continuous access to digital. To ask them to hand in or switch off their devices (much more than ‘phones’) is no simple matter for many. Social media is now so woven into daily life that going ‘off grid’ for any period of time is no trivial affair - it’s a very conscious decision. How many of you have switched off for three or five weeks - completely - in the last year? This is also something that many parents and carers of young people will not be used to or find easy, either.
But it is something we will now be helping our Explorers, Leaders and parents find a way to tackle in advance of going overseas so that we can continue to provide a genuinely immersive wilderness experience. We’ve been around for nearly 9 decades - and our training has changed and evolved throughout that time. Helping our Explorers smash the digital detox will support their resilience and independence - so it seems a pretty good fit with everything we’ve done since 1932.