Sunday Snippet: No Phone, New Freedom!
In our hyper-connected society, cell phones are quite literally becoming an additional appendage for many of us… including our children. We check the news, the weather, the sports scores, the latest Netflix releases, and so on. But for our kids, it has become the barometer of their social status. Being connected to social media allows instant data as to how they stand among their peers, how their latest actions play out within their social fabric, and what are the latest trends and expectations they feel pressured to meet. And it appears to us adults that our kids simply cannot exist without their phone.
Our experiences at camp suggest otherwise! Like many camps, WeHaKee does not allow our campers to carry or have access to their cell phones while at camp. The rationale is based on the desire for each individual to be present (something a cell phone tends to inhibit) in order to become an active part of a vibrant and supportive camp community. And the removal of cell phone access has done a remarkable job of ensuring this occurs each and every session of each and every summer! The policy does encounter considerable resistance, especially when new campers first arrive and are ask to hand in their personal device.
But, it is amazing how quickly campers adjust and more importantly begin to appreciate being disconnected from the constant monitoring of one’s social status among one’s peers. When phones are returned at the end of each session, many remark how surprised they were about not really missing having ready and immediate access to their phones and all the social media tethered to them. Some have even shared that they felt that it was much easier to simply be themselves without the distraction of following every social media reaction to what they say or do. They found it freeing to be away from the judging and sometimes harsh criticisms flung unchecked in the palm of their hand. And they have added that it is much harder to be mean when facing the people in the real life setting of camp.
An article in the Boston Globe last spring confirms much of what we have experienced at WeHaKee. In No phones at summer camp? No problem! (Boston Globe, April 13, 2018), correspondent, Hattie Bernstein details how campers let go to have fun, build life-long relationships, and grow while at camp each summer. Other camp directors share similar experiences to ours in seeing campers let go of the pressures of being constantly connected. And like us, they have seen more issues with parents not being able to easily disconnect from their child while at camp, some even resorting to hiding cell phones in camper items to ensure they can communicate directly during their time away.
Camp is an effective environment to grow in independence and self-confidence while creating positive and deep friendships from around the world. And without the influence of the cell phone, it allows girls and young women to enhance their social and emotional skills allowing them to navigate successfully when they return to the connected world beyond camp. And it helps parents to discover that their child can function without constant monitoring and guidance from them, which can be bittersweet initially, but reminds us parents that it is our job to help our children become effective functioning and contributing individuals in the world.
Thanks for reading and have a great week everyone!