What Happens when Teens Unplug?

I’ve been a part of an unintentional experiment. For the last 7 years, I’ve helped lead an organization reaching teens living outside of the passport country. Each spring students board a bus and travel 24-30 hours to Eastern Europe. We ask them to make that journey without phones. Without phones or any other technology. Not only the journey but the entire week…unplugged.

I just spent 8 hours in the car with my own two kids and I’m not sure how we pull this off every year without a riot.

Anyone in a close relationship with teens has seen the heartbreak, insecurity, and depression linked to being constantly connected.

Social media has drawn teens into constantly looking for happiness in online approval.

Kids grow up believing that if they don’t feel happy around the clock, something must be wrong. That creates a lot of inner turmoil. They don’t understand that it’s normal and healthy to feel sad, frustrated, guilty, disappointed, and angry sometimes, too.

And now we’re seeing what happens when an entire generation has spent their childhoods avoiding discomfort. Their electronics replaced opportunities to develop mental strength, and they didn’t gain the coping skills they need to handle everyday challenges. – Psycology Today “10 Reasons Teens Have So Much Anxiety Today”

So what happens when teens are without phones for a week?

Our technology free week, “Project Compassion” is designed to engage students in serving those living in extreme poverty, but without phones, we see community, joy and an awareness of what’s happening around them, that we don’t see at any other time of the year.

“It’s almost a punishment getting our phones back”


Some of us refer to this generation as “Generation Zero”. This generation has the opportunity to see incidents major issues in the world reduced to zero.

Legal slavery, Child Labor, Famine, and Extreme Poverty are just of few of the issues whose line graphs are rapidly approaching zero. Unfortunately, we also have the most distracted generation in history and those issues won’t be resolved unless they turn the camera around and really see what’s happening in the world.


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