We should probably preface this by stating that this isn’t an outright boycott against screen time. Many of us make our livelihoods, connect with loved ones, and learn about the world through a screen. Your teen is more than likely glued to a screen right now – quite like you and I are while reading and writing this article. It’s a basic part of our modern world, but all of us need a break.
Going out for a walk in nature is a wonderful daily solution to too much screen time, but it’s not always enough to change our perspectives. This summer your teen could experience an entirely different way of life. On a summer adventure trip with Bold Earth, teens have the opportunity to reassess their values and try on a new way of interacting with the world–tech free.
Get To Know Kids From Other Walks of Life
Hiking is a great way for your child to get to know kids their age from all over the country and the world. Teens no longer need to go outside their comfort zones to meet friends, now that online social interactions are common practice. It’s easy to fall into a rhythm with people who share similar lifestyles and schedules, whether in school or through social media.
As a result, our teens sometimes create bonds with people who don’t challenge their expectations or assumptions. By entering a brand new environment with a group of peers from around the country, teens are exposed to people who are different from them. These differences can often create the most interesting conversations, friendships, and broadening of perspectives.
Hiking gives the group a physical activity and breathtaking landscape to focus on as they get to know each other. It provides a common goal and shared experience that is vital to group bonding.
Improved Physical Health
Hiking has a positive impact on children’s and teens’ physical health. Teens who aren’t very active tend to be more prone to cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and even cancer, according to some studies. Increasing their activity levels is both a preventative and, to some extent, curative healthcare strategy.
To be more specific, hiking can improve your teen’s heart health as the physical activity raises their heart rate which results in aerobic exercises that help to improve their endurance. But the benefits of teen hiking trips don’t stop there. The moderate, weight-bearing exercise helps to improve bone density over time by strengthening your bone tissues.
Improved Mental Health
Spending time in nature, away from the stressors of every day life, has been shown time and again to be beneficial to mental health. In 2015, researchers at Stanford University showed that being outside for extended periods of time helped to lessen both negative thinking patterns and activity in the part of the brain associated with mental illness.
The findings of similar research were published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal demonstrating that physical activity in natural settings is associated with improved mood and increased energy while simultaneously decreasing stress, hostility, and melancholy.
Hiking in the outdoors has other benefits such as raising serotonin levels, enhancing focus and problem-solving abilities, and fostering a sense of personal and social renewal. The benefits of hiking to your teen’s emotional well-being are well-established, and the same holds true for its benefits to their physical well-being.
Improved School Performance From Mental Clarity
Teen hiking trips and other activities in nature not only help them focus better and have a healthier mental state, but they also help teens perform better in school by relieving stress and recharging their ability to think creatively and solve problems.
In 2012, Atchley and Strayer investigated the benefits of taking a break from technology to go hiking. Several previous studies had linked time spent in nature, such as while hiking, to enhance:
- Sustained attention
- The ability to ignore distractions
- Attention to detail
Atchley and Strayer wanted to take their research a step further by exploring the connection between prolonged time spent in nature and original thought.
Participants in the study were asked not to use any electronic devices, including mobile phones, for four days. Following their time in the woods, the hikers’ performance on a test of their ability to solve creative problems was much higher than before.
Learn Transferable Skills
The best part about summer camp is that the skills kids learn can be used in their everyday lives. Kids learn valuable lessons at camp that will help them become successful, fulfilled adults.
Some of these skills include:
- Research and planning
- Problem-solving skills & emotional intelligence
- Adaptability and ability to embrace change
- Connecting with people
Opportunity to Unplug
Many of us rely heavily on our electronic gadgets for reasons including jobs, social relationships, and more. The Office for National Statistics said in 2017 that people’s time spent socializing with others decreased by 13% over the previous 15 years due to the use of electronic devices.
An American person typically spends at least four hours every day on their cell phone.
We’re not here to pass judgment with this information. We just want to point out that going on a hike is a great way to disconnect from technology for a while. Teen hiking trips give them more time for meaningful interactions with loved ones or to just relax in private. And when they do, they may be better able to prioritize how they connect with others.
Respect and Empathy
Respect can be taught best through role-modeling, community expectations, and compassionate redirection. In nature, these lessons are delivered every day through experiences. Observing ecological relationships and their place within an ecosystem develops a respect for environment and other living beings. Spending time on trails and on public lands helps foster respect for wild places and the shared responsibility of maintaining them for future generations.
Overcoming challenges with a group of peers who are also going through the same experience helps develop compassion and empathy. Watching others struggle and being able to lend a helping hand helps teens take ownership of their experience. Caring about the wellbeing of the group comes more naturally when each person has a role to complete. While hiking, teens take turns being responsible for navigation, leadership, cooking, camp set up, and meal planning.
Cultivate Leadership Development Skills
Your teenager may not go out on an outdoor education trip with the intention of learning leadership skills, but they will certainly be exposed to opportunities to do so.
Setting out on an adventure trip exposes them to a wide range of leadership abilities, including risk analysis, teamwork, and communication. There is a saying that leaders are forged on the trail, and we can confirm that it’s true!
A Teen Summer Hiking Trip Could Be a Great Fit
Spending time in nature is good for our health. Numerous researchers have shown that physical exercise improves academic performance by raising serotonin levels. Students who are more physically active also tend to do better academically, while exposure to natural light reduces weariness and gets the creative juices flowing.
Most importantly, a teen summer hiking trip gives the opportunity for self-directed growth. We believe in a challenge by choice model where teens are allowed to stretch their comfort zones to the point that they decide. Their interests and passions are an important part of what directs our group bonding activities. We’re here to support your teen towards becoming the person they want to be.
For a full list of our hiking based adventures, click here.