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  • Writer's pictureStephen Bean

With The Phones at Bay, The Kids Will Play: Why Our Phone Policy Makes For a Better Camp Experience

Three years ago we opined about how we came to our phone policy in our blog post: Disconnect in Order To Connect (Cell Phone Policy Discussion) Just like every element of camp, we continue to work to provide the best experience for our campers and their ever-changing needs.

So what is our phone policy? Our phone policy is pretty simple. Upon arrival campers surrender their phones and they get them back every Saturday after the excursion. So at approximately 4pm on Saturdays, campers will have their phones from 4pm to 8:30am on Sunday.

So how did we arrive at this policy? Over the years we have played with different days of the week, times, durations, etc... We have ultimately arrived at Saturday because it allows for the most opportune time for parents to speak to their campers and we believe it allows campers the most amount of time to become acquainted with camp.

When we started camp, the phone policy was only restricted during the days and then campers would have their phones at night. We found this policy to be a pretty terrible execution of the summer camp experience we were trying to provide. We had our campers engrossed in the summer camp experience during the day and then completely disregarding it the moment they got their phones.

A revelation occurred when we stumbled upon the article: In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions? This concept blew our minds, here we were only encouraging this further degradation of these campers ability to read and understand facial expressions. It also became very aware to us that our campers became more concerned with what was happening at home with their friends and family while they were missing the entire point of camp.

We want our campers to be fully engaged in the camp experience. Part of what makes camp special is the escapism of everyday life. Summer camp is supposed to be an experience unlike any other and it's supposed to help grow campers in a way that is many times compared to that of a rite of passage. By limiting technology we see this play out each summer. By not having their phones, our campers are engaging with each other face to face and in many cases learning how to do that for the first time. The social and emotional growth that occurs due to the lack of phones is astounding. I always think of a particular parent who submitted the following review: "They had fun, learned a lot, and made great friends. They returned home more respectful in helping around the house and showing more initiative less interested in being online, initiating active games from ping pong to basketball to weightlifting in the morning and going on hikes." This is exactly what we're looking for in terms of this policy. We want kids to not feel alone in their camp experience, we want them to make friends, learn, and grow from the experience.

In Time Magazine's article: Playtime Isn’t Just for Preschoolers—Teenagers Need It, Too, we can see the importance of some old school interaction with one another that doesn't include phones being present. "Researchers have documented a rise in mental health problems—such as anxiety and depression—among young people that has paralleled a decline in children’s opportunities to play."

We want kids to be kids and that means teenagers too! We have our whole lives to be adults and deal with taxes, property management, Jane Doe in accounting, etc... Let's allow our kids to be kids and have fun without the pressures that come with being your own brand manager on social media. We cherish the times where our campers are interacting with one another, laughing, and sharing stories. These are the ties that bind us at camp.

As a parent, I promise you that you and your camper are better off with the limited technology policy at camp. A recent article at speaks of the needs of parents to want to know everything that is going on at camp. In the article: My generation of parents is ruining sleep-away camp, it examines how much of a struggle it can be for parents to let go during summer camp. "Why oh why do today’s summer camps insist on blanketing the grounds with photographers capturing every camper’s every swim stroke, craft creation, song session and gaga game? I know why, of course. It’s because of us parents. A generation of hopeless helicopters who insist on optimizing their offspring’s every experience — and on chronicling it in real time. It’s anathema to the essence of sleep-away camp, which should be not only a world without parents but a world that parents never fully see or understand."

Allow campers to go away, experience new things, meet new people, and build a new support structure. Summer camp is partially about the escapism of being away from your parents and the people that know you. Much like college is a time for reinvention, summer camp is a perfect place to try out a new personality because nobody knows anything about you on day one. As a parent, you must trust that camps are in the business of providing great experiences for your kids and their health and safety is always the number one priority.

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