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Cell Phone at Summer Camp

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Cell phone at camp anecdote:

We have severe lightning and a camp policy that, when the alarm sounds, all head for the nearest shelter and stay until the all clear. A thunderstorm came upon us shortly before dinner and lasted for hours. The nearest shelter to me was the chow hall when the alarm sounded. Some troops had scouts that also ended up stranded at the chow hall, uncertain of the disposition of their troops, and lacking communications because of limited cell phone reception in the area.


I overheard and saw some scouts working a handy bit of resourcefulness. They shared tips on downloading a calling application for their phones from the wi-fi internet access at the chow hall (not sure how they got the password for that - I thought it was supposed to be for adults - but given the situation I thought what they were doing was perfectly appropriate). The app allowed them to contact other devices in the vicinity without the need of a cell tower. Soon they had a little network going and were able to gather info about their units from around the camp. Sure, it wasn't really necessary; the storm only lasted a few hours. But it was a good little exercise, and they were obviously quite pleased with themselves for working it out. The skills and principles behind what they did could be helpful in a longer term contingency.


Regarding the linked article:

"When children come to camp they and you (parents) are making a leap of faith, transferring their primary care from you as their parents to us and their counselors..."

"As children learn to trust other caring adults, they grow and learn, little by little, to solve some of their own challenges. We believe this emerging independence is one of the greatest benefits of camp."


There are contradictions here. "Transferring primary care "to us and their counselors" doesn't sound like independence; it sounds like dependence on someone else.


And this howler... "trusting other caring adults" and ones they have probably never met before at that, is supposed to help them learn "to solve some of their own challenges?" No, a person solving his own challenges is very careful about how much faith he puts in people he has just met. He learns to solve his own challenges by trusting himself and by being circumspect in whose judgment he trusts other than his own.


Isolate people from their regular circle of interaction, subject them to stress and fatigue, and then demand control who they can communicate with... what does this sound like?


"Sending a cellphone to camp is like saying to your child that you as the parent haven't truly come to peace with the notion of them being in our care."


Yes. It could be that the parents have not "truly come to peace with the notion." And helicopter camp staff don't like that. They want to be trusted completely and they want complete control over the environment. Perhaps this is the real meat of this psychologist's objections and the objections of helicopter camp staff.


"The cellphone umbilical cord is just one way parents unintentionally undermine the development of resilience in their children," Ditter wrote. "Camp offers a tremendous opportunity for children to practice coping skills they will need for what is sure to be a challenging future."


See there... it's "just one way" they are undermining their childrens' development. Apparently this Ditter person can list a whole litany of other ways in which foolish parents are harming their childrens' development. But where's the evidence? It's "expert" opinion no doubt, backed by fascinating anecdotes I'm sure.

"...undermine the developing resilience of their children..." oh the humanity! Those poor delicate little flowers will never blossom now... not the way they could have... had not their ignorant and thoughtless parents undermined their developing resilience.


We want kids to ant kids to be able to handle their own affairs? How about trusting them to handle the ability to communicate with their parents?

If they are on cell phones:

during your classes or meetings... unacceptable - forbid it, and make the rings silent.

at meals or social gatherings... rude - discourage it.

any other time: none of your business... let it go helicopter camp staffer, you can't be the constant custodian of every aspect of the development of these delicate little flowers who've been entrusted to your care. And maybe they're not as delicate as you imagine. In fact, maybe they are so incredibly tough that they can withstand the corrosive effects that talking to their parents might have on their poor delicate developing resilience and independence.

(This message has been edited by callooh! callay!)

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Durn cell phone worked at camp this year.   Fortunately it was utterly useless on our week at Seabase Bahamas.   I consider home to be where the cell phone has no bars. I try to get back ther

Scouts simply don't need phones in camp. The whole reason for going to camp is to build self-assurance, develop new friendships and enjoy the outdoors away from technology. Leave the communication wit

how about setting up a ham radio relay with a leader or parent that isn't on the trip? The boys can send Morse code messages home so mom knows they are ok. it's a novelty they might learn someth

Callooh, that was a great post. We bemoan the numbers of today's youth that are not in BSA today, yet think they should scout like it was thirty or forty years ago. That is not to say we don't challenge them or offer adventure. It just means we realize it is their program, not ours.


Instead of banning cell phones, which is "easier", we can use them as a tool ourselves. If a scout breaks out a cell phone when you don't think he should, that could be a subtle sign about the program itself. An engaged scout would be less likely to break out a cell phone than a bored one.


Not to mention that for many scouts these days, their cell phone is the only camera they have. Not only would we not think twice about wanting a scout to take pictures of his adventures, these days they can take the picture and send it out to the masses with captions like "Look at what I'm doing right now!"



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My experience over and over at summer camp is that any communication with mom exacerbates and prolongs homesickness. Cell phone communications -- either voice or text will keep the first year and sometimes the second year Scout in a state of missing home and mom for the entire week. The communication does not help him get over the hump and stand on his own.


Over and over I've watched new Scouts go through the pain of "Moody Monday" & "Terrible Tuesday" only to get over the hump and through enjoy the rest of summer camp on "Wonderful Wednesday", "Terrific Thursday" and "Fantastic Friday". He leaves camp with a new sense of personal power -- he is proud that he did it and now knows he can be just fine without mom. This is something that will serve him well for the rest of his life.


But not those new Scouts who have a cell phone and spend their nights talking to or texting mom. Again, over and over, I have watched those with the means to instantly communicate with home spend the entire week in a miserable funk.


We had one new Scout who was miserable and tired the whole week. I later learned his parents (on the advise of his therapist) had given him a cell phone, "just in case". But he spent every night until 2- 3 in the morning texting with mom! No wonder he was miserable! No wonder he never got over his homesickness! Not surprisingly he quite Scouts right after summer camp, and has now become a viscous critic of the Troop. It seems like his desperate need to get home turned into a pathological anger he may never be able to face.


Cell phones? Leave 'em home!! If you're lucky you'll have no signal or the batteries will go dead. Scouts don't need 'em.


While this may not completely apply to older Scouts who have the discipline to keep it tucked away, and use only for an emergency (as others have pointed out) they can also be pulled away from camp via intense and almost constant communications with a girl friend... something no one needs!

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Last summer I was unable to attend camp and found it very interesting how many facebook posts that had nothing to do with Scouts from the guys in camp. They hadnt cut the strings loose and were still conversing with girlfriends, buddies, family, and people that had no idea they were even at camp.


We gave the same rule to the boys that the adults had for a long period - we didnt want to see the phones, dont want to hear your conversations, and dont want your nose buried in it. The older guys seem to get it. Their batteries will die out if they go at it too much and we haven't seen the survival chargers, yet anyways...


We too had a 2nd year Scout struggling with homesickness and was on the phone with Mom quite a bit at night. But he also had another weight on his shoulders - that of Dad just having left for a long tour in Afghanistan. Hes worked through it and is hopefully starting his Eagle project this fall yet. Doesn't appear to be any life long damage.


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"But not those new Scouts who have a cell phone and spend their nights talking to or texting mom. Again, over and over, I have watched those with the means to instantly communicate with home spend the entire week in a miserable funk. "


Maybe...just maybe mind you, those kids that have a miserable week, do so because they didn't really want to be there to begin with, but were told to do so by pushy parents.


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  • 7 months later...

For many troops, this decision is out of their hands. All of the different summer camps our troop has been to ban scouts from having electronics of any kind - except a watch and camera. If the troop allows them in the vehicles for the drive to/from camp is fine, but then they need to leave them in a locked bin or leader vehicle until they leave for home.

Adults are allowed cell phones and possibly GPS units, but the phones should only be used in emergencies or when the scouts are not nearby to see it used.

Being separated from electronics can be difficult for some scouts AND leaders. But we hope the experience gives them a different perspective on electronics. They can be entertaining and helpful, convenient tools, but they are Not necessary to have fun or get things done. Is it really unreasonable to go a week without? Isn't one of the reasons we go to camp is to get outdoors away from our urban lives?

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I have had 4 sons at scout camp over the past dozen years. I have never given a cell phone to a son who is a camper.


When my second son was a CIT, he did not want a phone. The following year, he was staff and my next son was a CIT. The younger boy wanted to bring his cell and I allowed it because he was going to be gone all summer. They both worked at camp the next summer and again, the younger one took the phone. They called us about once a week.


This year, my youngest is going as a camper and he will not have a phone.


I don't think cells are necessary for campers but staff should have them.

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Question for Scoutfish???? I presume your troop does not allow the boys to have a cell phone. Would it be OK for all the moms to call you four times a day to check on their babies? If not why would you give your son special treatment over the boys who are there without their Daddys?

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The reason we were give for the camp wide ban was some KYBO and shower pictures got taken and sent home to friends.....



Remember folks, Phones just don't make calls any more........




as parents calling me 4 times a day I would turn mine off, Oh thats right it is in my truck, never got the call.

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If it were up to me, ban 'em. I don't even own a cell phone, and hope I never do. So I guess I am a bit biased. And perhaps a little anti-social.


Personally it is my goal to live and recreate in places where there is no cell coverage at all. Those places are becoming fewer and fewer.

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Ever wonder what we did BEFORE cell phones existed? We provided parents with the Camp Office phone number, or a local point of contact in case of emergencies. Our Troop does the same thing today, and we DON'T give out leaders' cell numbers! Sure scouts bring their phones, but they quickly go dead from the texting and Facebooking and there's no place to charge them--Really cuts down on the helicopter traffic!

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  • 4 months later...

Our troop has had this debate going for some time. We don't allow any electronic devices on our camp outs or summer camps. The exception might be the Senior Patrol Leader, as that can save us a lot of steps in a large scout camp. We take the scouts camping and to summer camps to do scouting stuff, not to be texting and calling girlfriends or playing games. The leaders have cell phones and if we have reception can call parents in an emergency, The parents likewise have our numbers as well as the camps office number. We just did a Hawaii trip and it was nice not dealing with the phones, even with the time difference. I have survived many scout camps without cell phones and did just fine as have all the boys who passed through our troop in those many years. We did issue some walkie talkies a few years ago and that worked quite well, as long as they weren't abused. But as with all things some troops issued every scout one and then we were forced to change channels quite often. Again we only issued one to our Senior Patrol leader.

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Banning electronics to youth while adults sit around the camp surfing on their ipads and iphones is a common practice. The boys are definitely sitting off somewhere cussing about the injustice of it. I think if you are going to ban electronics to youth, you have to ban them to the adults too. By ban, I mean leave them at home.


Somehow we all made it through the 20th century without these infernal devices. You can still survive today without one. In a real emergency, just borrow someone else's. No one else is going to take my advice.

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