Tech de­tox for kids at Par­nas­sos

Sum­mer camp teaches chil­dren to em­brace na­ture and take a break from elec­tron­ics

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY LINA GIANNAROU

One morn­ing last sum­mer Sofia set out for the pine-scented slopes of Mount Par­nas­sos in the fam­ily car. The camp or­ga­niz­ers had told the kids’ par­ents to be there at noon, but Sofia ar­rived early, partly be­cause she had been un­sure how long it would take her to get there and partly be­cause she wanted noth­ing more than to give her 9-year-old son a big hug and to learn all about his time at camp.

“Why did I do that?” she asked. “As soon as I got there, he saw me, eyes widen­ing, and said: ‘This is my space! Go away!’ He then went and hid be­hind his team leader. I was shocked but I un­der­stood why he got up­set. When he saw me, he knew that his time at camp was com­ing to an end and that he would have to re­turn to nor­mal life. I told him not to worry be­cause I would leave and then come back when it was time.”

Soon after, the same drama would play out be­tween other par­ents and their kids when they showed up for the end-of-camp pre­sen­ta­tion the chil­dren had pre­pared for them be­fore go­ing home and back to their reg­u­lar rou­tines. “The kids were cry­ing and so were we. It’s hard for a parent. You won­der what you’re do­ing, whether you’re pres­sur­ing your child too much,” she adds.

None of these is­sues had been con­tem­plated two weeks ear­lier, when they were tak­ing their chil­dren up the moun­tain for the Elatos Sum­mer Moun­tain Ad­ven­tures pro­gram, which is or­ga­nized by the Elatos Re­sort for kids aged 7 to 14. It’s a new kind of sum­mer camp for kids which em­pha­sizes sim­plic­ity, get­ting back to na­ture and out of touch with tech­nol­ogy and the con­nected world. They learn about bushcraft, the art of sur­vival in the wilder­ness. They also learn about botany, as­tron­omy, mu­sic from the moun­tain’s nat­u­ral sounds and vi- sual arts based on the myths of Par­nas­sos.

The main aims of the pro­gram are to teach kids self-re­liance, to “de­tox” from school and fam­ily life – and of course from apps. As is the case at many other sum­mer camps, such as those or­ga­nized by Trekking Hel­las, Elatos for­bids smart­phones, tablets, mo­biles phones or any other elec­tronic de­vices. Chil­dren com­mu­ni­cate with their par­ents us­ing a land­line phone.

“It’s hard for them at first as their de­pen­dence on look­ing at a screen is quite strong,” says child psy­chol­o­gist Maria Pa­pafil­ip­pou, who worked with the Par­nas­sos pro­gram last year. “Many young­sters strug­gle with get­ting used to this at first, but start to for­get about it once they get im­mersed in the ac­tiv­i­ties. They start to get in­ter­ested na­ture. When you em­brace na­ture, you ex­plore, you find out what you’re good at and how to push your lim­its. You learn how to deal with dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions and con­di­tions. All chil­dren strive for in­de­pen­dence. The ques­tion is how much should we give them?”

Teach­ing the par­ents

Some par­ents thought it would be a great idea to se­cretly bring phones to their kids dur­ing vis­its as a treat. “In­stead of candy, they’d bring them a screen. That is an in­di­ca­tion that, for many fam­i­lies, it is the main form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Dur­ing last sum­mer’s pro­gram, we no­ticed that what the kids are taught must also be taught to the par­ents, who also can’t eas­ily dis­con­nect from their screens,” says Neni Karas­ta­mati, one of the own­ers of Elatos and the mother of 10 yearold Nik­i­tas, who took part in the pro­gram last year. “They them­selves un­der­stand that bring­ing a tablet with them on their vis­its only to take it away again when they leave does the big­gest harm. We all must take part in the ef­fort. Many didn’t get this un­til later on, when they saw that their chil­dren de­vel­op­ing new skills and dis­cov­er­ing as­pects about them­selves they never knew ex­isted and which would only show them­selves if they were in a wilder­ness en­vi­ron­ment. Many have sent us thank-you let­ters after the pro­gram say­ing we’ve, in a sense, re­turned a dif­fer­ent child to them.”

The sum­mer pro­gram Ad­ven­tures at Par­nas­sos is for kids age 7 to 14, and aims to teach in­de­pen­dence and self-re­liance.

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