by Ed Lindekugel
CEO Acton Academy at Serenbe

The incredible spread of online access provides youth of the 21st century more opportunities for  interpersonal connection than ever before. However, research shows that high usage of the internet is linked to loneliness, social anxiety and depression.  Some have raised concerns about the impact of internet use on young people and their mental health.

(The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families)

Dr. Rebecca Nowland, research Fellow at the University of Central Lancashire states, “research linking loneliness to internet use has shown that using the internet socially can lead to both increases and decreases in loneliness – depending on how it is used.” When technology is used to connect with people and maintain existing relationships, it can reduce loneliness. But when internet use replaces offline interactions with others, it can increase feelings of loneliness.

(Social media: Is it Really to Blame for Young People Being Lonelier than any Other Age Group?)

So how do parents address these serious concerns for their children? Mitigation of loneliness may lie in the idea of “authoritative communities”, such as Acton Academy at Serenbe.

Hardwired to Connect is a report issued by the Commission on Children at Risk, composed of children’s doctors, research scientists, mental health and youth service professionals. Dartmouth Medical School, YMCA, and the Institute for American Values jointly sponsored the study which sought to address a number of critical problems facing American youth including high and rising rates of psychological issues.  

The report concludes that the cause of this crisis of American childhood is a lack of connectedness; close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral & spiritual meaning. In short, the kind of connections that happen offline.

Humans are “hardwired to connect”; designed to need other people, to have moral meaning, and to be open to the transcendent, and meeting these needs is essential to health and human flourishing. The report found that the best way to meet this need for connectedness is inclusion in authoritative communities—groups of people who are committed to one another over time and who model and pass on at least part of what it means to be a good person and live a good life. Strengthening these communities is likely to be our best strategy for improving the lives of our children.

Hardwired to Connect defines authoritative communities as social institutions that include adults, children and youth. They relate to the child as a person and care about the child for his or her own sake. They are warm and nurturing, and establish clear limits and expectations for children. The core of their work is performed largely by non-specialists. Authoritative communities are multi-generational, have a long-term focus, and reflect and transmit a shared understanding of what it means to be a good person. They encourage spiritual and religious development, and are philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all persons and to the principle of love of neighbor. The weakening of authoritative communities in the U.S. is arguably the principal reason why large and growing numbers of U.S. children are failing to flourish - and feeling lonely.. (Created for Relationship: A summary of Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities)

Acton Academy at Serenbe is the ultimate “authoritative community.” The way students learn, the character they develop, their curiosity, initiative, and self regulation - these are all things that are a part of an effective authoritative community, and real life. At Acton Academy, your child will be known and loved.