SUU Outdoors held an Outdoor Education Series on Thursday, Feb. 10 with feature speaker Glen Andersen, the founder of Youth Wilderness Experiences.
Andersen is an SUU alumni who worked as a seminary teacher for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints after graduation and saw teenagers becoming more engaged with their cell phones every year. He also noticed that over the years more students came to him to discuss mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts.
Seeing this increase and believing the two were connected, he decided to plan an outdoors trip with some of his students where they could get outside and disconnect from technology.
The trip was a huge success and he soon found himself planning more of these trips and inviting more teenagers. He has now created an entire company out of the idea and travels the world taking these trips where groups can get outdoors and leave their phones behind.
“The company focuses on getting kids disconnected from technology and social media,” Andersen said. He also talked about how he tries to get trips in places without cell service and Wi-Fi.
Andersen shared that the average screen time for Americans is four to six hours a day and someone touches their phone 2,600 times per day on average.
He asked the attendees to pull out their phones and see if they could find any articles that discuss the negative effects of smartphones and social media. After a few minutes, participants shared what they had found.
Responses included increased depression, loss of meaningful conversations and face to face contact, increase in stress and sleep deprivation, changing shapes and responses in brains and increased car accidents.
“My business is built on combatting [the negative effects of technology] with one tool: the outdoors,” Andersen told the audience.
Andersen then asked the audience to find articles on the positive benefits of the outdoors. These responses showed decrease in diseases and faster healing times, increased vitamin D and energy and a decrease in stress hormones.
Andersen ended the event by saying that, “I strongly believe that going outside and just being present and disconnected will heal you.”
The Outdoor Education Speaker Series is held every other Thursday in Basecamp in the Sharwan Smith Student Center.
Article and Photos by: Callie King-Stevens