Taking screenagers to the forest

    As a parent of a 16 year-old boy and 12 year-old girl I found this article fascinating. Written by Caleb Silverberg, now 17 years of age, it describes his decision to break free from his screen addiction and enrol in Midland, an experiential boarding school located in a forest where technology is forbidden.

    Trading his smartphone for an ax, he found liberation and genuine human connection through chores like chopping firewood, living off the land, and engaging in face-to-face conversations. Silverberg advocates for a “Technology Shabbat,” a periodic break from screens, as a solution for his generation’s screen-related issues like ADHD and depression.

    At 15 years old, I looked in the mirror and saw a shell of myself. My face was pale. My eyes were hollow. I needed a radical change.

    I vaguely remembered one of my older sister’s friends describing her unique high school, Midland, an experiential boarding school located in the Los Padres National Forest. The school was founded in 1932 under the belief of “Needs Not Wants.” In the forest, cell phones and video games are forbidden, and replaced with a job to keep the place running: washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, or sanitizing the mess hall. Students depend on one another.

    […]

    September 2, 2021, was my first day at Midland, when I traded my smartphone for an ax.

    At Midland, students must chop firewood to generate hot water for their showers and heat for their cabins and classrooms. If no one chops the wood or makes the fire, there’s a cold shower, a freezing bed, or a chilly classroom. No punishment by a teacher or adult. Just the disappointment of your peers. Your friends.

    […]

    Before Midland, whenever I sat on the couch, engrossed in TikTok or Instagram, my parents would caution me: “Caleb, your brain is going to melt if you keep staring at that screen!” I dismissed their concerns at first. But eventually, I experienced life without an electronic device glued to my hand and learned they were right all along.

    […]

    I have been privileged to attend Midland. But anyone can benefit from its lessons. To my generation, I would like to offer a 5,000-year-old solution to our twenty-first-century dilemma. Shabbat is the weekly sabbath in Judaic custom where individuals take 24 hours to rest and relax. This weekly reset allows our bodies and minds to recharge.

    Source: Why I Traded My Smartphone for an Ax | The Free Press