A decade has passed since BlackBerry led the transformation of mobile phones into e-mail and Internet access devices. By the end of 2014, more than 1.7 billion of global mobile phone users – some 40 per cent – will own smartphones.
In that breathtakingly brief period, the smartphone has transformed society in unimaginable ways. The most widely cited impacts are social. Pervasive e-mail and text messaging, the phenomenal popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube plus the vast amount of information accessible through search engines make many users virtually unable to avoid using their smartphone for more than a few minutes. This condition has become known as Internet addiction. It infects children as young as two years and it's well on its way to infecting a large part of the post-smartphone generation.
What does this have to do with business? A great deal, since those who grew up in the age of smartphones will eventually comprise Canada's entire workforce. How can people who've spent almost every waking minute moment fixated on their gadgets learn thinking skills such as problem solving, strategic planning and disciplined time management? Psychological studies don't paint an encouraging picture.
When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading and hurried, distracted thinking. Surprisingly, one of the clearest enunciations of the problem comes from an Internet veteran. Two years ago, Joe Kraus, a partner at Google Ventures, sounded the alarm. "We are creating … a culture of distraction where we are increasingly disconnected from the people and events around us and increasingly unable to engage in long-form thinking. People now feel anxious when their brains are unstimulated …We threaten the key ingredients behind creativity and insight by filling up all our gap time with stimulation."
With Facebook, Twitter and other cellphone interactions, this is surely the most socially connected generation in history. But as personal as these seem to be, they shield the user from face-to-face interaction. And given the opportunity for face-to-face interaction, users often prioritize their phones over the people right in front of them.
"We are lonely, but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We expect more from technology and less from each other," says Sherry Turkle, an MIT Professor who studies technology and society.
This helps explain why employers are finding young recruits very bright, but awkward and deficient when working in teams or interacting with customers.
Studies by psychologists and neurobiologists point to the conclusion that the Internet device revolution is actually rewiring brains. Mr. Kraus puts it this way: "We're radically overdeveloping the parts of our quick thinking, distractible brain and letting go of the long-form thinking, creative contemplative, solitude-seeking, thought-consolidating pieces of our brain atrophy by not using them … that's both sad and dangerous."
It's dangerous from a social standpoint because constantly distracted people who are incapable of long-form thinking will have difficulty managing their lives. And it's dangerous economically because business success in a globally competitive world requires undivided focus, analytical accuracy, creative problem solving, innovative thinking and team-working skills.
The Internet brain seeks to fill all "gap" time tweeting, texting, e-mailing, following Facebook "friends" and, if there's any spare minutes left, playing video games. Is it possible to rewire the Internet-addicted brain? I wouldn't be surprised to see "Internet withdrawal" retreat centres emerge as a new business opportunity. And businesses should be adding "long-form thinking" to employee development programs. The survival of their enterprises may depend upon it.
Gwyn Morgan is a retired Canadian business leader who has been a director of five global corporations.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Where do I find: Pricing & Dates, Registration, Additional Forms, Camp Packing List, Travel Forms, Pricing Breakdown?
All may be found on Rates & Dates
- Does my daughter need to be a high level athlete?
The girls attending AK-O-Mak have varying athletic abilities. Most girls will find a sport that becomes her own.
- Does my daughter choose her own activities?
Our program director assigns the activities every day. See the Daily Schedule under Programs.
- Do the counsellors stay with the campers?
Our counsellors live in the cabins with the campers. There are 2 to 3 counsellors per cabin. The younger cabins have the additional counsellor.
- In which currency is the tuition charged?
Our pricing is in Canadian Dollars. If paying by credit card, the card company will exchange the money. Currently the US Dollar is at a 35% exchange and the Euro Dollar is a 50% exchange (both the US and Euro Dollars offer quite a discount compared to the Canadian).
- What day does my daughter arrive for camp?
The arrival day is the first day of the session and is the same day that your daughter would fly into Toronto Pearson International airport.
- Does my daughter need spending money?
No. Spending money is built into the tuition and is referred to as the "Refundable Expense Account". This is for the camper to use at the camp store (Tuck Shop), out of camp events, a paddle across the lake for ice cream. The amount is different for each session and is shown on the Tuition Pricing Breakdown PDF. An accounting is done at the end of the summer and if your daughter has money remaining in the expense account, that money is refunded to you. If she has spent more than the amount, you will be issued an invoice.
- What if my daughter has a medical issue?
We have 1 to 2 doctors on site to handle most medical issues.
- My daughter is nervous to be away from home.
Camp is often the first time a girl has been away from home. One of the main reasons parents send their children to summer camp is to accomplish this developmental milestone in a safe and enjoyable setting. Everyone, regardless of age, will feel some discomfort. Your daughter will learn that feeling 'homesick' does not last long, that some camp mates feel the same way and together they learn how to manage their feelings in a positive way. Our counsellors and head staff are well trained/experienced in handling home sickness.
- Is there a one week program?
Our shortest session is 2 weeks, the minimum time that we can provide a holistic camp experience, i.e. over-coming homesickness (which lands day 3-4, perfectly normal), forging friendships with one's camp mates, investing in/enjoying the program while accomplishing personal goals. A one week camp can be helpful for some children, however it is not conducive to the delivery of a robust program such as Camp Ak-O-Mak's. In our experience, with the first and last days as travel and the next couple of days 'missing home', one week campers "default cope" by counting down the days 'til pick up rather than investing in their camp experience.
- Does my daughter need her phone?
We are UNPLUGGED for the summer. Ak-O-Mak has a no cell phone, tablet, laptop policy. The camper will have their phones for travel. Upon arrival to camp, we will collect the phone for safe keeping in the locked, camp office.
- Do the cabins have electricity?
No. Our cabins do not have electricity. The camper will need a flashlight or headlamp.
- Does the camp have flush toilets or outhouses?
We call our bathrooms "HOPS". They are separate buildings shared by 2 cabins. Each HOP has multiple stalls with flush toilets and sinks with running water. Flashlights are required for HOPS also.
Ak-O-Mak is more than just a summer camp! It is a life changing experience for all young women. Your daughter will make friends, have fun while embracing new experiences.