Can summer camp help kids and teens be more empathetic?

03 Apr / by: CCCA / 0 comments /
Photo Courtesy of Trout Lake Camps

Students’ schedules are packed, and there’s not a lot of uninterrupted time to be still, hang out with friends and process life. They go from school to sports to homework. Then it’s time for bed and the tireless cycle continues.

Amidst a full schedule, there may be some margin for friendships, but a recent study shows those friendships might not be the same quality as students in the past experienced. The missing ingredient? Empathy.

A study from the University of Michigan found today’s students are not as empathetic as students in the 1980s and ‘90s. “The sociology department at the University of Michigan, led by Dr. William Axinn at the Population Studies Center, tells us that college students today are approximately 40 percent less empathetic than they were just 10 years ago.” 1

Given the realities of their world such as excess screen time, information overload, virtual reality and a lack of positive role models, youth become desensitized to life events that should evoke empathy.

Students can benefit from face-to-face interactions with positive role models who are willing to listen and show students how to care for others. Summer camp counselors are notorious for being fun and high-energy, but they also can serve as guides for campers to learn to listen well and how to care for their peers.

While at camp, group games and cabin time also provide space to connect with their peers and to practice empathy. Recognizing social cues can happen when youth have extended time together—and aren’t rushed from activity to activity.

What if more students were able to experience one week of camp? Or a whole summer away? Time spent at camp can help re-set a student’s perspective and equip them to understand others in a more empathetic way.

[1] https://growingleaders.com/blog/why-empathy-is-declining-among-students-and-what-we-can-do/

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