Summer camps and technology: An uneasy truce!
It's that time of year again. Tens of thousands of kids from around the country are making their annual pilgrimage to the great outdoors, otherwise known as sleepaway camp.
Most kids are looking forward to the experience. Although they may miss mom and dad and the comforts of home, they are more than happy to trade them in for a few weeks of swimming, horseback riding and evening sing-alongs.
However, there are certain modern-day comforts that many tweens and teens are not so happy to part with. At the top of that list are cell phones, iPods and video games.
In an age where texting and digital entertainment have become essentials of everyday life, summer camp may be the last holdout, pushing back against the tide of electronic gadgetry in favor of a simpler, more natural way of life.
But these days, even these havens of healthy outdoor living are feeling the pressure. Most camp directors now admit that it's impossible to ban technology entirely, especially when it has become such a big part of the lives of campers and their parents.
"Technology in some regards has found a place in camp, and in some regards it's still off limits," said Jeff Solomon, executive director of the National Camp Association.
Most camps still ban video games and even those that allow cell phones have strict rules on how and when they can be used. "The policy has to be applied across the board," said Amy Richardson, a long-time camp counselor in upstate New York. "Smartphones are the worst. They can quickly build a divide between the haves and have-nots and completely detract from the camp experience."
As far as the kids themselves are concerned, most camp directors say they make the adjustment to a non-tech world very quickly. "Going from 200 texts a day to zero is not an easy transition," says Richardson. "But most kids want to fit in with the group around them and, if the rules are applied evenly and fairly, then everyone adjusts fairly quickly.
That's not to say that kids don't get right back into technology as soon as they are back home, says Christie Martin, mother of two daughters in their early teens . "They always tell me they were so happy to be away from all the drama, but five minutes after they walk through the door they are texting like they've never been away!"
Should cell phones and other electronic devices be off-limits at summer camp? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!