Remember when we used to tell our children, “Close your eyes, and imagine…?” When is the last time you asked your child to do that?

I used to read the Avengers comic books as a child, and remember seeing cartoon images of super heroes and villains doing remarkably un-human things. My imagination would run rampant! Meanwhile, my son has watched the Avengers movie 10 times on our DVR, with terrifying aliens destroying half of New York City, rather spectacularly, as if it were completely real. No longer do kids have to imagine much, when most anything can be found in seconds on YouTube, Google, Video Games, CGI Movies, etc.

Long trips with the family used to mean games, trivia, and creative thinking amongst my brothers and myself, or risk complete mind-numbing boredom. Today, children watch Disney movies on Mom’s 10-minute trip to WaWa to buy milk. We are unconsciously taking away opportunities for creativity and imagination, and replacing them with beautifully intoxicating and addictingly evil SCREENS! Children are little screen addicts, and we, the parents, are the enabling dealers.

When is a toddler the happiest? Not in front of a screen, but with a wooden spoon and a metal pot. Today’s children may THINK they are happier in front of screens, but we as parents need to know better and be disciplined and tough enough to manage their screen time, or risk permanent damage. Like they say, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” – and according to most every employer, most young people are entering the workforce with great resume’s, but no ability to use their imagination and creativity to see the possibilities that exist.

Where do we start? Ration screen time, like you do with Halloween candy. Embrace boredom – have your kids go outside with NOTHING predetermined to do, and have them figure out something to do. When going for a drive, make up a story with your kids, the crazier the better, and have them help! Keep the TV turned off in the house except for set times, and set aside time for them to read a book, magazine or newspaper. Most kids today only read what is assigned in school, and wouldn’t you, if YouTube were just a click away on your tablet, and 3-dimensional soldiers were fighting epic battles in foreign lands on your 60-inch high definition flat screen?

People have always said, “I can’t sing” or “I can’t dance”, but today they also say, “I’m not creative” – and they might be right, because they didn’t exercise those muscles enough when their brain was growing as a child. The world only makes giant strides, technologically, environmentally, curing cancer, curing hunger – when creative people come up with ideas that nobody had ever thought of before. It’s our job as parents, teachers, mentors, and even camp counselors, to give children the skills they need to be successful, contributing members of society – and raise the next generation of thinkers and leaders who can make the world a better place!

By Andy Pritikin
President of the American Camp Association NY/NJ, Owner/Director of Liberty Lake Day Camp, and the father of two teenagers

Andy@libertylakedaycamp.com • www.libertylakedaycamp.com

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