Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cell Phones at Summer Camp?

It's a long-standing staple of summer camps everywhere- kids come to camp to "unplug", go tech-free, and experience all of the face-to-face relationships, activities, and nature that camp has to offer. But in this post digital-age era where children are growing up with digital cameras, smart phones, and other technology as the norm, keeping camp tech-free for kids has become an increasing challenge.

The Denver Post recently shared an article: Cellphones at summer camp? Parents are part of the problem., highlighting a concerning trend seen in recent years- parents are encouraging and aiding campers in sneaking phones and other technology into camp with them. This impedes so many of the objectives that are at the heart of camp.

"These parents usually have good motives, wanting only to keep in touch with their child, but defying no-screen rules can actually work against many of the valuable experiences camp cultivates, including working on face-to-face communication and safely test-driving independence." -Kate Jonuska

Camp is an opportunity for kids to  have meaningful & in-person relationships with adults and other kids, meet people without status-symbols interfering, explore the outdoors, challenge themselves to new heights & accomplishments, and, most importantly, encounter God in a unique & life-changing way. When kids are tuned-in to their phones and other technology, they are by nature tuned-out to all these experiences occurring around them, and they end up missing out. In addition, there are moral lessons being taught by those encouraging their children to ignore policies & rules:

"Some parents go as far as giving a dummy device that staff members can find, a second one so the child has a back up," [Miriam Shwartz] says. "They know they're breaking rules and asking their child to break rules, and they're OK with that. It's hard to talk about honesty and why rules are in place and the good of the community when parents are willing to go to those extremes and make campers their accomplices."

As we (parents, camp staff, children's workers, etc) seek to instill God-honoring morals in the next generation, we must be living examples of the behaviors and standards we want these kids to learn and emulate, even (especially) when it requires sacrificing what we may selfishly want. You may not be encouraging your camper to sneak a cell phone onto camp (especially since Heights does not have cell service!), but is there another way you are maybe not walking your talk? How can we each challenge ourselves to better live out what we speak and teach?

Parents, we hope you'll partner with us in creating these safe spaces at camp (and at home) for kids to grow, be loved, and have fun, where the whole gospel is embraced and lived out. As times change, camp may not always be cellphone-free, but our prayer is that Covenant Heights and all who are involved with it will always be seeking to glorify God in word, action, and deed. What better example could we give to the children we're seeking to minister to?

Jessica Drogowski
Director of Guest Services

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