Counsellor helps students ditch digital devices for real-world conversations
Nick Wells, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, April 18, 2017 9:35PM EDT
A U.S. counsellor is aiming to crack a younger generation's addiction to digital devices, trading Facebook likes for real-world interactions.
Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd is the founder of the Center for Digital Wellness, and is looking to educate students on how to engage in digital-free interactions.
The centre, located in Liberty University in Virginia, is Wi-Fi free and comes complete with a fireplace and overstuffed chairs reminiscent of a Victorian England library.
Hart Frejd says she was inspired to create the centre after co-authoring a book on how digital technology has changed younger generations.
"I think if it was called the centre for digital addiction, they (students) may run away, but the students understand I really want to help them thrive in their real life," she said in an interview with CTV News Channel.
She says 18- to 24-year-olds are at the highest risk of digital addiction, and she believes having a centre can combat the spread.
Hart Frejd reiterates that she isn't against technology but wants to help students thrive in social situations.
"I never dreamed that I would have to teach people how to have eye contact and to be able to think of something to say to start a conversation," she says.
She refers to the generations that have grown up with a proliferation of digital devices and technology that have become a part of day to day lives as digital natives, a group who exhibit complete comfort with new forms of technology.
But there is a catch.
"This generation, particularly digital natives, a lot of them don’t like face-to-face conversations and it's scary to them, so teaching them these basic real life skills will really help them thrive," said Hart Frejd.
She admits she can be just as guilty as her students, getting stopped in the hallway and chastised by students for being on her phone.
Hart Frejd does have some advice for parents who are wanting to re-establish connections with their own children instead of seeing bowed heads browsing smartphones.
She recommends setting up "digital free" zones in the house -- such as the kitchen, the dining room and the car -- where parents and children can have meaningful conversations.