Photo by Chris Fuller on Unsplash

Detach technology, embrace outdoors

By 
  • June 8, 2022

This past weekend I enjoyed a brief phone chat with Faye McCreedy, the youth ministry coordinator in the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s ministries and outreach office.

A contributor to the archdiocese’s youth activities since 2006, and at her home parish of Immaculate Conception in Delta, B.C., since 1999, this mother of three teenagers possesses a good pulse of how more than two years of day-to-day existence with the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted young Catholics.

McCreedy shared some preliminary details with me about the upcoming Homecoming Youth Retreat for Grade 8 and 9 students at the picturesque Camp Jubilee north of Vancouver from July 4 to 7. She made a particularly striking comment about how the pandemic has hampered the development of interpersonal skills.

“Through this time of COVID, it has been so hard for youth to connect with one another,” said McCreedy. “Speaking with some teachers and other youth coordinators, we have come to the conclusion that these kids don’t know how to face-to-face interact with one another.”

McCreedy hopes the young adult retreat leaders will successfully foster an environment where these new high school students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, personality and feelings.

Technology is expected to be a limited distraction at this retreat. A product of Camp Jubilee’s remoteness — it is only accessible by boat — is poor wi-fi service. Attendees will also actively be encouraged to keep their phones in their rooms so they will not be a distraction during group activities.

I wish initiatives like the Homecoming retreat all the best. We need youth and parents in a (hopefully) post-pandemic Canada to engineer a course correction towards choosing to fill time doing fun, physical outdoor activities with other young people instead of devoting hour upon hour to TikTok, Instagram and video games.   

Spending unplugged hours outdoors nurtures our ability to live mindfully in the present. God wants us to live a life of moment-to-moment consciousness. Satan, on the other hand, revels when each of our emotional frequencies are dominated by anxiety, fear, depression or a combination of all three.

If you are a young person experiencing a lack of fulfillment scrolling through the online pictures of one of your friends seemingly having a great time boating, hiking or playing soccer, take the step to detach from your devices right then and there so you can instead enjoy similar fun.

Parents also have a fiduciary responsibility to take notice of the warning signs that suggest a potentially development-impairing online addiction and take impactful steps to stem the tide.

I emphasize the fun technology-free experiences available to kids and teens, but it should also be mentioned that time away from iPhones, iPads, etc. can be put towards equipping ourselves with hard skills such as cooking, gardening and home improvement projects.

How would younger generations react to an extended power outage that renders electronic devices unusable for days or weeks? I worry that such an event would be paralyzing as so many people have embraced societal conditioning to over-rely on technology hook, line and sinker.

With these points in mind, I hope each YSN reader embraces a summer break that trends towards outdoor activities more than ever before.

(Amundson is The Register’s Youth Editor.)

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