What Kind of Campers Do We Serve?
At Summerland Camps, we focus on young people who need a reset in life. Most campers have fallen off track and gotten away from who they truly are. We strive to bring our campers back to the vibrant, outgoing, creative, and truly wonderful people they are inside. We believe that all adolescents and teens are capable of change, and sometimes just stepping away from the home environment and resetting relationships is just the thing to get a young person back on track.
We are proud to be the only summer camp focused on screen time overuse issues in the United States. While other programs may claim to address this issue, they also address higher-level issues as well. If you send your child to a “catch-all” program, you risk your child being exposed to other issues like drugs, alcohol, bullying, and violence. These are issues that we expressly DO NOT ACCEPT.
We work with young people that need to develop insight and practice coping skills. We don’t believe medication is the answer in most cases. While there are medications that can help with depression and focus- there is no known pill that can teach a coping skill or offer a new way of looking at life or interpersonal interactions with others.
Safety is Our Top Concern
The safety of our campers is of top priority at Summerland Camps. Therefore, we cannot accept any camper with a known history of violence or physical aggression towards other young people. Therefore, if your child has ever been suspended or expelled for assaulting another child- or if they have ever been arrested for a physical assault, then we would not be the program best suited for their needs.
Additionally, if your child is currently doing drugs or engages in drug-seeking behaviors, then we would not be the best program for your child nor would be able to accept them. Again, the safety of our other participants is paramount to us, and we cannot risk having a camper introducing contraband into our community or exposing our campers to higher-level issues.
Our campers do need a reset in life, and we provide the perfect format for this. Most of our campers also benefit from education on how to establish goals, learning how to achieve those goals, in addition to learning and practicing skills and developing insight. We are not a psychiatric facility. We are a clinical camp program geared to get young people back on track so that they can handle the independence of college or living alone without oversight from parents. We are based on a University campus because many of our campers are college-bound, and most could benefit from learning self-regulation skills and developing insight.
We define “self-regulation skills” as the ability to plan and control a daily routine. For example, if your current main goal in life is to graduate college, then what behaviors do you need to limit or do more of to achieve this goal? For our campers that might mean limiting video game playing to certain days and/or time frames, and also setting aside structured blocks of time for studying and organization. Part of why we are so different is that we maintain this positive focus. We don’t dwell on the past, we focus on the future.
The Technology Problem
Technology has brought us many great advancements, but also many changes to our society that we have to adapt to. With any rapid shift, we as a society need to learn how to adjust. Because of the internet and handheld devices, we can communicate more effectively than ever before. But along with easy access to communication and information came unlimited access to all types of entertainment: social media, gaming, TV and videos, bloggers, online pornography, and more.
With many issues adolescents and teens exhibit, the tendency to withdraw is a major concern. Autism spectrum, learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, poor social skills, problems at home, trauma, physical ailments, shyness, introversion, and so much more can result in a child withdrawing into a world of online distractions. Sometimes there are no co-occurring issues of prominence; the child has just favored digital distractions in real life and has now suffered consequences socially, academically, and with relationships at home.
Below are some common co-occurring issues with screen time overuse. Some issues have contributed to screen-time overuse, others result from the act of overusing screen-based technology. Others seem to simply co-occur, increasing as screen time use grows.
Co-Occurring Issues with Screen Time Overuse
Anger and defiance are among the most common co-occurring issues we see at Summerland Camps, especially when it’s time to turn off the computer or gaming system. We can help our campers learn to deal with anger and defiance by working with them in the moment. This type of intervention is so much more effective than once per week “sit on the couch” behavior change.
Typically, adolescents and teens are defensive when in outpatient therapy. Everything is someone else’s fault. But with “in the moment” intervention we can question thinking in real-time and have campers practice coping skills in real-time as well. In this regard, campers will leave the experience of feeling angry but resolve the anger in a more socially appropriate way. This can be a unique and valuable experience for campers.
We also keep it positive by focusing on the future and future goals. We don’t address anger with a “you’re broken” attitude. We address it by engaging the camper with what they want out of life, and what are your future goals. Then we determine what behaviors are needed – or not needed – to get there.
We help campers become social again and even learn leadership skills. Our team activities are geared for this purpose. We create inter-dependent groups where each member, under a staff member’s supervision, are equally responsible for developing a project.
There is really no better format for campers with social withdrawal or social skill deficits than Summerland Camps. We are a fun environment, and because we are team-based, campers must interact. If a team does not interact, it cannot achieve its team objectives. We have built-in systems to ensure even the most socially shy or anxious camper interacts with others.
A significant portion of campers that attend Summerland Camps have an ADD or ADHD diagnosis. Young people with ADHD seem to be drawn to video games and screen-based activity much more so than their non-ADHD diagnosed peers.
We’ve talked with some parents that feel the format of video games attracts ADHD campers because it stimulates the attention centers of the brain. Other parents say it’s the video games that contribute to the child’s ability to focus and concentrate because it’s hyper-stimulating, and now the child can’t focus in a normal classroom.
We have a set curriculum that works well for young people with attention and focus issues. We can help them learn self-regulation skills that will not only teach them to live with technology but will enable them to be successful in many other areas in life as well as typically problematic for young people with ADHD.
First and foremost, we provide a reset opportunity at camp. By creating some separation, young campers can step back and examine their relationships with family, friends, and themselves. A reset opportunity is the best first step in repairing family relationships.
Summerland Camps help heal the family unit by offering parents practical guidance on setting up behavioral contracts for their camper upon the return home. We also offer aftercare and pre-care services as well. Role plays geared at educating families on conflict resolution are provided at the family workshop.