Do we need to send kids to a $4000 military-style boot camp to thwart tech addiction?

bootcamp-for-teens

Has it really come to this? Is tech addiction among teens so bad that we have to send them to a military-style boot camp to get them off their devices?

According to Seven News, that’s exactly what some parents are doing.

They’re paying $4000 for their kids to go on a nine-day camp run by Veteran Mentors, a group of former Australian soldiers.

When the teens get on the bus for the camp in Queensland, all technology is taken away from them. Then they’re put through training, from parachute jumping and army-style obstacle courses to polishing boots and ironing uniforms.

Is this boot camp worth sending your tech-addicted kids to? Post continues.

Video via Seven News

“It’s very tough for the participants and that’s why it’s effective,” Glenn Filtness from Veteran Mentors says. “If it wasn’t tough, it wouldn’t work.”

I don’t know. I have my doubts that “military-style boot camp” is the solution to anything much, unless it’s “how to prepare for joining the military”. Kids are going to have to return to their lives after nine days, and those lives will include devices. Surely the impact made by the camp is going to fade, and the temptations of technology will gradually draw them back in?

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Plus, $4000 sounds like a hell of a lot of money.

Psychologist Jordan Foster from ySafe, who specialises in young people and technology, also has serious doubts about boot camps. She says research has been done in Asia into whether boot camps can change addictive behaviour when it comes to gaming. In the longterm, she says, they were found to deliver “almost no results”.

“It’s only a short-term fix,” she tells Mamamia. “It’s like one of these fad diets that don’t render any significant lifestyle changes.”

Foster says for parents whose children are addicted to gaming, it’s “so distressing”.

“Children become fixated. Their whole lives change. They become very aggressive sometimes. They often drop out of school, they become financially dependent on their parents, they lose all social relationships. These are really serious issues, and parents really feel the pain and anguish.”

The simple hack that will prevent you from reaching for your phone all the time. Post continues.

Foster says there are often really strong reasons why children develop gaming addictions. They might be using gaming as a form of escape if their real lives are stressful – for example, school is very difficult or their parents are separating. They might also struggle with social relationships in the real world, but find they’re accepted in their online community.

“If those factors aren’t addressed by professionals at a very comprehensive level, then you’re not getting to the core of the issue,” she says.

However, when it comes to kids who are having excessive screen time that’s not gaming – say, just checking social media – Foster says it’s generally not an addiction. She believes that parents can usually deal with it themselves at home by bringing in a more “regimented structure” for their kids.

She suggests filling up kids’ schedules with sport or other hobbies, and using parental control tools to lock down how much access kids have to screentime.

“When it comes to excessive screentime, it’s about being firm,” she says. “That will have the most positive outcome.”

Foster says research has shown that just four days without technology can make people less likely to use technology in the future. But she says boot camp isn’t necessary – it can be a fun four days with the family.

“So if you take your child away for a long weekend and leave all the devices at home, including parents’ devices, you can render the same outcome. Spend $4000 on going on a holiday with your family!”

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