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Cell Phones at Summer Camp

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Will you please give me a break or at least read my posts all the way through before needling me? What you are reading between the lines is incorrect and it's beginning to feel petty.


It was tucked in his fanny pack which was filled with emergency preparedness items which would also have gotten lost as could 2 dozen other items brought to camp like cameras and clothing.


But m biggest point is, is that it didn't get lost and, as I said in my first post, we, as parents, were aware of the risk and considered it our hard luck if it were lost, stolen or drowned in the lake. It was a risk we were willing to take. He's a kid and his sense of responsibility is relative to his age. I'm not fooling myself about the possibility of it or HIM getting lost or separated. (Three Scouts have gotten lost in the past 2 years, all of which had parents and leaders very nearby, but no cellphone of their own. One still has not been found.) One was rescued by a 4 wheeler with a cellphone.



If you don't believe cell phones belong at camp, rather than ban them arbitrarily, why not set guidelines so as to appease everyone? Warn parents and kids that they are responsible for any loss and they cannot be used at anytime except for emergencies and between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. three days during the week (or something similar). It'll take care of the Leader's having to trek to a pay phone with a kid. Heck, most camps have parents visit midweek; what's the problem with a phone call instead especially when they are over 600 miles away?


Or, bet of all, how about using the Patrol method to have the boys set their own guidelines!!!




(This message has been edited by janssenil)

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I don't believe Scouts should have cell phones at camp. The adult leadership should have them for emergency use. Plus, most camps have pay phones they can use in case of emergency.


And a phone call in no way replaces a visit from mom & dad.


Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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600 miles is a long way to travel for a visit.


Three Scouts have gotten lost in the past 2 years, all of which had parents and/or leaders very nearby, but no cellphone of their own. One still has not been found. One was rescued by a 4 wheeler with a cellphone.


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I believe that Scouts should have privilege of having the use of a cell phone with guidelines. Similar to tote-n-chip;. nip the corners and the privilege is denied.


Its another tool to use, and another opportunity to teach respect for the tool and others.



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Parents' night. Don't get me started. Parents' night used to be Weds. Most scouts were fine until Mom and Dad walk into camp. Then they want to go home. A few did...most stayed because they needed to finish their MB work. The worst is when a child is expecting a visit and no one shows up. What kind of excuses does a leader make up to console a sobbing kid, when you have no idea why they "forgot". Now parent's night is Friday. Almost ALL of the scouts went home...after all, the MB work is done, and it's hot and the dog misses me. Why should we hang around? So what if the leaders have to pack all the gear by themselves the next morning? It didn't occur to me until later that they are now not eligible for OA because they didn't stay the last night in camp...oh well.

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  • 1 month later...

I almost hate to post a response since Im not even sure whether some of the ridiculous posts are actually spoofs and pranks. But here goes anyway.


There is one important point about modern cell phones which has not been brought up. That is, cell phones are actually miniature emergency location beacons.


In recent years several Scouts have gone missing, and at least two have never been found. With a cell phone, there is a good chance they could have been located, especially if they had known how to properly use the devise during an emergency. More on using a wireless phone during an emergency later.


When 911 is dialed from a cell phone, a whole chain of events begins happening as the callers location is determined and reported to emergency dispatchers. This location capability if whats called the E-911 system, the E standing for enhanced.


The first thing that happens is that the nearest cell site gets a directional fix on the phones signal. Then other cell sites in that same general direction also get directional fixes from wherever they are. This direction finding process is called triangulation.


The system also measures how long the phones signal takes to reach each tower site, and thus determines how far the caller is from each tower site. This process is called trilateration.


When direction and distance are known from two or three tower sites, a location can be determined to within at least a square mile or so, and often to within 100 yards or less. This all happens within the first few seconds of the emergency call after the caller presses SEND.


The moment a 911 call comes into a dispatch center from a cell phone, the callers location is lit up on a map on a computer display. During the first several seconds of the voice call, the map display zooms in ever closer as the enhanced 911 system obtains an ever more precise location fix.


Even this degree of caller location capability can be a lifesaver during an emergency when a caller might not know exactly where he is. A lost Scout on a high hill can have his approximate location known even if he can only get a short and weak call out.


Better yet, practically all modern wireless phones have the ability to report their own locations even more precisely than that. Todays phones have built in GPS receivers which come on and report the callers lat/long when 911 is dialed. (The GPS receiver remains off nuring normal operation because it draws a good deal of battery power.) So in addition to the rough location fix which the cell system itself can get from any emergency cell call, modern phones sweeten the pot by reporting their location within a stones throw.


The entire location fix, including the callers lat/long, takes less than 30 seconds. Again, ANY 911 calleven a brief onecan make the callers location known.


At least three cell phone companies (among them, Wherify Wireless) make phones specifically for kids. Some are very basic in their operation, but all have location capability.


Some of these kids phones can actually receive a signal from the cell system which activates the internal GPS receiver and silently reports the phones location, even without the kid taking any action at all. (Realistically, any boy old enough to be in Scouting has outgrown a kids phone and can learn how to operate an adult model.) If a kid goes missing on the way home from school, for example, his location can be found if he is carrying one of the newer kid cell phones.


Now, lets address the matter of wireless phones at Scouting events, such as on a camping or hiking trip.


When a Scout packs along a cell phone, it takes on a whole new role. It is no longer a mode of idle chit-chat, or his handheld video game. It becomes a bona fide emergency preparedness tool. It should be kept off to save battery power, and an extra battery should be carried also.


The BSA Field Book states on page 78 that a wireless phone is a basic emergency preparedness tool. Its important to remember that the Field Book is specifically written to SCOUTS. Just because the Scoutmaster has a wireless phone doesnt mean the Scout is prepared. Not one of the Scouts who have recently gone missing has gotten lost in the company of his Scoutmaster. Note that on page 79 its the SCOUTnot the Scoutmasterwho is pictured using the wireless phone to get emergency help.


On page 191, the Field Book also lists the GPS receiver as a useful navigation tool. But just as with the cell phone, it also states that we should not neglect to learn orienteering and other preparedness skills. Its also important to note that our best emergency preparedness tool is always our MIND.


Now, lets consider the matter of liability. I find it hard to believe that responsible leaders would actually take it upon themselves to unilaterally ban a bona fide safety device (wireless phone) which is recommended in several national BSA publications. This is the height of irresponsibility. Thats why I suspect some of these posts may actually be fake.


If a Scout gets lost and is injured or dies at one of these artificially-created cell phone blackout zones we will absolutely be sued, and we will lose.


The leaders responsible for willfully violation national emergency preparedness recommendations may also be prosecuted criminally for negligent homicide. Its just like taking life jackets from rafters, or eye protectors from metalworking students, in violation of known safety recommendations. The person responsible will certainly be sent to the poor house, and possibly the big house.


If the boys family does not sue, some non-sympathetic and gold-digging relative will. And they will win. All it will take will be for that lawyer to hold up page 78 of the Field Book, and were sunk. That lawyer might even hold up print-outs from Scouter.com to show that a certain person knew the ins and outs of the issue and still chose to recklessly and negligently take it upon themselves to ban even the mere possession of a known and BSA recommended safety deviceone that contained an emergency location beacon, no less.


(Other BSA publications, especially the various hiking manuals, mention using cell phones as preparedness tools. Just look up cell phone or wireless phone in the index.)


I must emphasize again that Scouts should be properly educated in the use of cell phones in the wilderness. First, the phones must stay off to preserve battery life. If an emergency call must be made from a remote location, the weak signal reception will cause the cell phone to automatically crank its output power way up in an attempt to get the call through. This will really suck batter power. Battery life is a precious resource.


Additionally, Scouts must be taught that when they get lost and begin to find a place to make themselves comfortable for a while, perhaps they might want to pick a higher place rather than a lower place, if such an option is available. This high location will give them a better chance of getting that one important call out. With cell phone radio waves, height is everything.


As for protecting the serenity of the wilderness from the beeps and boops of modern electronic gadgets, that is certainly a valid point. Toys have no place on a Scout camping trip because they eat up space and contribute to weight. These things also teach nothing related to Scouting and arent useful in an emergency.


However, wireless communications tools, such as cell phones, FRS radios, amateur radios, and so on, are far from useless. Its important that Scouts learn to use these devices. If a Scout eventually becomes a smoke jumper, game warden, or enlists in the service, the tools he uses in the wilderness will be much more advanced. Scouting can help teach some basic communication skills which will pay off later in life.


I hope my post has presented some important points to ponder.


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you need to get a refund on your law degree and your cell phone... and do lots more living or research before issuing shuch a broad-side...negligent homicide?


Not all phones are GPS enabled and most are/or maybe non functioning in wilderness areas...Many (most currently?) can only home in on the last cell tower that picked up the signal...not necessarily the phone itself...


Ask the search and rescue teams...many many lost souls have cell phones and GPS units...but the "magical tools" didn't work or the lost souls were clueless as to how the GPS worked...and Emerg. prep. says it can be a tool not is or must be...lighten up and put your ego back in place....why the sweat?



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This topic has gone around in circles for a long time. There have been many valid points brought up for and against cell phone use at camp. I guess it all boils down to what each individual unit wants to do. I think everybody has flogged this dead horse enough.

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scoutldr -


A little off topic, but regarding the going home friday night problem... we make it very clear. We tell the parents before camp ever starts that the boys have to stay until Saturday. We're a team, we come in together and we go out together. Unless there is a valid excuse, which I'll certainly fair about, a boy has to stay. The saying goes "go home on Friday, don't come back on Monday" (troop meeting night). It's never been an issue, parents have always supported us on it.

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A 8 page 114 thread about something that doesn't start with the letter G. Wow - That's great!!

Maybe we are flogging horse?

I of course think that I'm right and everyone who doesn't agree with me is wrong.

However in trying to not be overly smug, I have just read all eight pages and have seen a lot of the "We don't allow" postings.

I'm not all together sold on cell phones as the great indispensable safety device. I do think that they can serve a purpose in that area.

But I have yet to see any real good reason for not having or not allowing a Scout to take his cell phone with him.

With most camps that I have visited having pay phones, I don't buy into the homesickness theory. If a Scout wants to send a text message or phone his sweetheart when he isn't supposed to be doing something else, I just don't see the problem.

Most Scouts know how to put the phone on vibrate so it doesn't go off in the middle of a Flag ceremony or other important time - I wish more adults would learn!!

Kids think cell phones are cool. I think when we start adding rules that serve little or no purpose we seem old fashioned and anything but cool!!

Asking OJ to take Rory for a walk without his cell phone is not going to happen.

I would hope that if there was a stupid rule that stated he wasn't allowed to take his phone that he would obey it. But I think he would see it as a stupid rule and that would mean that he would have to make some choices. What do we want from the youth that we serve?

That they not attend because of a dumb rule?

That they break a rule they see as being wrong and unethical?

That we force them into being sneaky?

Looking at all eight pages, it would seem that no one is going to change their minds.

Sad to say I don't see many of our older Scouts giving up their cells until we can come up with a good reason why they should and we might be guilty of helping them break the Scout Law. All because we don't like something that is not illegal, not fattening, and I have yet to see cause anyone any harm.

I have no idea what the next generation of cell phones will bring? I know some can receive streaming video, e-mails, music, take photos and tape live action.

Who knows maybe one day the Boy Scout Handbook will be as close as the nearest cell phone and we will be giving the Scouts heck for not remembering their cell phone?

He signs off singing in the year 2525..


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  • 6 months later...

Someone mentioned that we teach the scouts how to shoot a rifle, how to fire a shotgun, and blackpowder, and to use a bow and arrow. It might be worth noting that all of those things are used under very strict adult supervision, and locked tightly away. Scouts don't get to keep rifles, bows and arrows, or shotguns in their tents, backpacks, or fanny packs. You could argue that if a scout gets lost, he could fire three rounds as an emergency signal, or break open a shell and use the gun powder to start a fire, or shoot something to eat, or protect himself from a bear or mountain lion.....


I've found that if a kid has a phone, he or she will use it for whatever reason. talking to friends, texting, gaming. That said, I passed my phone around every night at Jambo so kids could call parents and friends to tell them what happened during the day.


On the subject of music, my scoutmaster took a boombox/blaster to the long term summer camps. (never the monthlies) We made a mix of our favorite songs. We listened in the evening when everyone was in camp. To this day, when I hear ... (well, fill in a song, I don't want to date myself) it reminds me of scout camp. My son went to Philmont with me last summer, 2005 just before we went to the Jamboree. He had all of ColdPlays stuff. We listened to it all the way there and back 14 hours each way. Now, when we hear a ColdPlay song, it brings back all the great memories of Philmont. By comparison, out Jambo troop forbid any CDs iPods and etc. as a result, no musical memories from Jambo :-(


I would be in favor of no personal CDs or MP3 players. BUT, a big ol' boombox we can all listen to while making memories is OK by me. Music is a great brain/ memory stimulator. Camp songs are OK, but what are the chances that you will hear Tom the Toad on the radio and get a random happy memory from camp? Probably not very good.

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Sorry, I don't mean to keep the argument going, but you can't compare the danger of a shotgun, bow and arrow or rifle to a cell phone. Shotguns, rifles and bows & arrows can cause physical harm so, although, I'll go for the idea of a confiscating cellphones if they are causing disruptions, in my opinion you can't compare those weapons to cell phones unless you are comparing the need for teaching boys to handle both of them properly and with respect.



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Since this thread started last summer, it would be interesting to know if troops made more guidelines for cellphone use before camp this summer. My son doesn't have a cellphone but my husband an ASM does.


Personally, I don't see a problem with a boy taking a cellphone. It's in using it that can be a problem. Spending time in your tent playing games or talking to your girlfriend is not what you came to camp for. Calling your parents and getting homesick isn't great either.


I you think about it, it's sort of like a whistle. A whistle is a fine short range emergency tool, but annoying if someone uses it all the time for fun.


Actually I'm glad my husband and others had cellphones this summer, we had a massive storm when they were at camp, and many of those left at home were without power for days. The adults in camp were able to handle somethings more easily because they were able to brainstorm solutions among themselves.


Cellphone coverage at the camp we went to isn't great, and not at all at their campsite. It's weird but some of the best areas of coverage are in some of the most public areas. The camp staff know all the good spots!

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