Camp Starts Here: Leave the Devices at Home

Camp Starts Here: Leave the Devices at Home

While summer seems far away, it’s never too early to begin your exploration of camp for your child. Here’s a hint: these experiences won’t include their smart devices.

It’s not surprising that according to research by the Kaiser Foundation, kids between ages 8 and 18 spend an average of 6.5 hours a day absorbed in some type of media. The survey concluded that most of that time was spent in solitary activities.

At summer camp, kids are encouraged to interact with something other than a keyboard, an mp3 player or a game controller. It’s a place where there’s two-way communication with real people. And at the end of the day, there’s no winner, no loser and no points being tallied. Consider these reasons why every tech-savvy child needs to unplug.

Experience Life Powered by Humans
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a child is six times more likely to play a video game on any given day than to ride a bike.
Many summer camps offer activities like swimming, horseback riding, fencing and more.

According to research conducted by the American Camp Association (ACA), 63 percent of children who learn new activities at camp tend to continue engaging in these activities after they return home. This can lead to continued physical exercise that lasts a lifetime.

“Oftentimes, camp is a child’s first exposure to recreational activities. Instruction and skill development usually come with that and can awaken in campers a lifetime of enjoyment,” says Jill Thompson of Tips on Trips and Camps, a free advisory service. “It’s easier to step outside their comfort zone while at camp because that’s where everyone is trying new things. Being at camp removes the pressure of performance that is often put on students through school and their everyday life.”

Person-to-Person Skills
At camp, kids are away from the overwhelming bombardment of media. Time is spent outside running, jumping and playing with other kids. Summer camp exists to provide supportive relationships, meaningful opportunities and challenging activities in a physically and emotionally safe environment.

“It’s a place designed for and with children, where they can explore and discover an important rite of passage,” says Peg Smith, the ACA’s CEO.

“They are able to make new friends, escape labels that are put on them in school and develop self-esteem,” adds Thompson.

Real Life, Real Close
Camp provides a bit of real life you won’t experience from the end of a game controller or by texting a friend across town.

“You will get homesick,” says clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel, Ph.D. “You’ll be cold and hot and hungry.”

Mogel, author of “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” hopes that some of these things will happen during a camping experience. “Otherwise, a child is deprived of living life. Of its thorns and its roses.”

Before you Send them Off
Some camp directors ban electronic items altogether. The concern is that tech toys involve solitary and sedentary activities that clash with what camp is all about — developing social skills, building community, sharing traditions, appreciating nature and being physically active. Many camps do not allow cell phones/smartphones, mp3 players, computers, video games, electronic fans or other electronic devices. Check with your summer camp to find out what not to pack.

For even more information on researching, selecting and getting ready for camp, check out our Northeast Ohio Summer Camp Resource Page. It’s your complete guide to all things related to summer camp, including some great local options!

High-Tech Benefits for Camper Parents
Just like bringing the teacher an apple, receiving a letter from camp is a time-honored tradition. The practice has gone on for generations, and it’s still encouraged today.However, camps also like to take advantage of high-tech capabilities. While campers benefit from unplugging, technology is still a good way for parents to stay in the loop. Many camp websites post newsletters, videos and pictures of campers for parents to view.At many sleep-away camps, parents can send their camper an e-mail. Some camps allow campers to e-mail home once a week. Most still encourage campers to use snail mail as the best way to send a message home.Technology’s Place at Camp
There are many camps that offer programming specifically based on technology. In fact, some 12 percent of ACA-accredited camps offer computer or technology programs, including video editing and computer programming.

— Claire Yezbak Fadden is a freelance writer and mother of three sons, one of  whom grew up to be a camp counselor.

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