In the past several years, cell phones have been a contentious issue at Ontario summer camps. Parents, campers and staff alike have asked us about the use of cell phones and we’ve stood firm with our answer – no. Our answer is still no, but it’s not as firm as it used to be.
Everyone knows that smart phones can do so much more than a traditional cell phone. However there is one capability a phone has that is widely overlooked – the ability to make a parent feel at ease.
Many parents attended day camp or overnight camp when they were children. However, for others who never went to camp, sending their child away can be a stressful experience and receiving a text or email could go a long way to reassuring them.
At camp, we hope to foster independence, and cell phone use might actually help rather than hurt. A message to Mom or Dad might read, “Having fun, please leave me alone now”. This might be just the thing that would help parents realize it’s okay to give their kids some space.
Some camps are worried about a negative message going home from camp via a cell phone message. If a child is unhappy, the word will eventually get home and cell phones could serve as an early detection system that salvages what might otherwise have been a negative experience. Most camps already ask parents to inform them if their child sends word of a problem they might be facing by way of a letter or fax. We can simply extend this piece of advice to include cell phone messages.
Don’t get me wrong, living without the use of a computer or phone for an extended period of time is still a value I hold dearly. It’s rather liberating to be on a canoe trip with no signal for days. And for now, the answer to cell phones for campers is still no. But I’m beginning to see a day when a cabin group might have ‘connect time’ on their schedule.