​Welcome to Summer Camp! Cell Phone Free Zone!

Girls with backpacks walking on the road together.

Summer camping season has arrived with a wave of heat and all of the challenges that arise when we transport buses of children across the state. 4-H agents share stories of their experiences which are often humorous and maybe harrowing. There are so many benefits for children to experience camping, but there are some major stressors too. No cell phones is an example!

Agents should stress to parents the importance of being prepared and following rules. The rules might seem strict or even overwhelming, but they are important.The major rule violation that parents allow to happen these days is centered on cell phones. Since our state 4-H camp has a “No Cell Phone” policy, we realize that it’s a shock and can be a deal breaker for kids.

I think we agree that all of us enjoy our cell phones. These personal devices provide us with hours of entertainment and keep us connected to our loved ones. However, they are a distraction and often gobble up our time.Camp is an amazing opportunity to meet new people, try new skills, and thrive without caregivers. Cell phones complicate the camp experience and the issue has been discussed at length in most circles.

When parents are advocates for their child having a phone, it teaches their child how to cut corners and get around rules. This teaches children that the rules don’t apply to their family and sets them up for a harsh reality later in life when they are expected to follow other rules. For example, following rules in an airport or not bringing a gun to school.Exaggeration?Not really. When a parent teaches a child to sneak a phone to camp, its game on for everything.

Smartphones haven’t been on the scene for very long, but in the last 5-10 years, the presence of this new device has brought out both positive and negative experiences for schools and camps alike. According to the University of Michigan in Science News, May 2018, cell phones allow youth to take photos, make slideshows, stay connected to family, allow for recruitment of other youth to take part in the fun, and increase entertainment during down time (music, dance parties, and movies).

Science News also outlined some of the negative opportunities that occurred because of the youth having and using a Smartphone. As 4-H agents, we want the youth to experience positive youth development and a phone hinders that experience.

According to the majority of current research articles, youth being preoccupied and distracted by their cell phone is the main negative. Camp is a time for new experiences, people, and distance from family life. Instead of a child being in the moment with the hands on experience in front of them, phones preoccupy thoughts and take away from what a child could be learning. The camp experience is short lived, but a phone can be used day or night at any time in the future.

A popular argument from parents is that their child needs to stay in communication with them and that’s why they must have their phone. Actually, constant communication with parents prevents youth from connecting with camp staff and the other campers. Youth will miss the benefit of learning how to interact with new people or understanding how to cope without their family influence.

Just like schools, camp settings could potentially be locations for cyberbulling. Children are introduced to swimming, dancing, and invited to participate in a talent show, but if cell phones are on hand, children could use the phone to embarrass a child by taking a photo of them in a bathing suit or talent competition. Camp should be a place where experiences shouldn’t be marked with hiding or not participating because of fear of being humiliated on social media.

When bedtime rolls around, children are tired and homesickness is prevalent. A cell phone connection with their family often exacerbates the problem and well-meaning parents aren’t helping a child learn how to overcome the strong feelings they experience. Homesickness is a normal occurrence that all children experience. They learn about how to navigate their emotions and how to become independent. These milestones are healthy and important for positive youth development. Plus it’s important that children get enough sleep while they are at camp. The temptation to hang out on their phone deprives them of their sleep and prevent them from having the best camp experience.

For more information, please visit the articles below to explore the pros and cons of having cell phones as part of a youth camper experience.

Science Daily news: Cell phones at summer camp: Research explores the effects

5/16/2019 3:57:45 PM
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