Do you worry that so much time on the smartphone and laptop is not healthy for your daughter's self-esteem and psyche? Are you looking for ways to encourage her to disconnect—or at least back away—from technology and relax and enjoy the summer?
Maybe you're remembering how much fun you had when you left civilization behind and went away to summer camp. Well, things have changed, and it's hard for children to get away from technology these days. But maybe it's worth a try.
Social media and the flood of polished images and overhyped messages that bombard our daughters on their smartphones and computers can harm their already precarious self-images. And online bullying and "mean girl" moments only make it worse.
May is National Teen Self-Esteem Month and a good time to talk with your daughter about how she feels about herself. Studies show that 53 percent of 13-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies, and 78 percent of 17-year-olds don't like what they see in the mirror.
If you think it would be healthy for your daughter to get away from her screens and her virtual "friends" for a while, you may want to help her look into summer camps or other adventures. It could be a wilderness camp, a nearby recreational camp, a family trip to Europe or a mission trip to South America. Or maybe she'd like the responsibility of camp counselor.
Experts at the Camping & Education Foundation say summer camp can teach teen girls life skills and help them develop not only a stronger body but also a stronger sense of self. That sounds better than watching reality TV, following celebrities online and posting selfies, right?
If camp is out of the question, you can help your daughter create a self-esteem–building experience at home by encouraging her to try these tips from the Camping & Education Foundation:
- Create a daily reflection time. Technology bombards our senses all day long. Require your daughter to set aside 30 minutes a day to disconnect and reflect on how she's feeling, what her needs are and how she's coping. Depending on her personality, she can journal, practice yoga, go for a jog or sit quietly in her room—no phones or other technology allowed.
- Get out in nature. Many memorable camp experiences are the times spent outdoors—sitting around a campfire at night, hiking to the top of a mountain at sunrise, swimming in the ocean or identifying wildflowers on a hike. Even if you live in an urban area, encourage your daughter to sit on the porch or a park bench and observe nature. Really pay attention—with no distractions from texting.
- Learn a new skill. Create opportunities for your daughter to learn something that can build her abilities and confidence. Whether it's mowing the lawn, playing tennis, sewing a skirt, changing a tire, fixing a leaky faucet or administering CPR, create an opportunity for her to accomplish a task that seems challenging.
- Volunteer. Just a few hours a week volunteering can create a sense of feeling needed. Teens need that. Other volunteers and the people they are serving will rely on your daughter to help them accomplish common goals.
- Become a role model. Babysitting or coaching younger children can help build self-esteem. Younger children will admire characteristics in your daughter that she might not value in herself, and younger children won't be afraid to tell your daughter what they think is great about her.
- Disconnect for a day. Support your daughter by creating a family disconnection challenge. One day a week turn off all cell phones, tablets, computers and other technology. Plan a family adventure like a walk in a local park, a backyard family game competition or joint preparation of a meal with tasks for everyone. Even if your kids protest, insist everyone participate. If a day each week seems impossible, start smaller—maybe a Saturday or Sunday morning. As you get better at it, plan an outing that will allow you all to focus on the adventure and not the phone—a daylong hike and picnic, a trip to the shore or a visit to a museum. Decide as a family—but agree in advance that all phones will be turned off all day!
These changes can help kids step out of their normal worldview and realize that the hairstyles, clothes and other materialistic aspects of life that they and their friends value may not be as vital as they once seemed.