As I do every year, I visit camps in different parts of the country. I get to know the lakes, the mountains, the itty bitty hotels and motels along the itty bitty highways and I unplug — not by choice mind you. Since this is a business trip, I really need to stay in touch with clients while on the road. But, what is the value of a child unplugging for the summer and what are some of the policies you may find on different camp grounds?
New terminology: with an ever-changing society that has become plugged in, the camps have been forced to adapt some of their policies when it comes to kids and electronics. So let’s start the list:
1. Cell phones – Forget about it! The camps do not want kids to bring cell phones and they know many devious parents send their child with two cell phones, one of which they gladly turn in to the camp office while holding on to their secret phone. Granted, most camps have little or no cell service and don’t have wireless internet that is available to the kids, if anyone. If your child is going to camp without you however, and you want them to have the ability to contact you while in transit, they can happily and proudly turn their cell phone into the camp office upon arrival and retrieve it, all charged up, when they return home after a great summer.
2. Game players of all kinds – Whatever name they go by today, leave them at home. Although some camps still do allow game players, most do not. Highly recommend that you send your children with playing cards or one board game. This is a time for unplugging and social skills development. Encourage them to sit on the floor and play with someone else. So if you have to send them with something, try cards, jacks, pick up sticks and the like. Go old school!!
3. Music systems – The latest in terminology is screen free. So if a camp “does” allow private music systems, they are usually permitted in the cabins only for night time listening. Something like an older version i-pod that has no screen is the way to go. No movies, no videos…. are permitted.
4. Readers - Go for the old fashioned Kindle or a real live paper book. Camps are in transition these days because they know that kids are reading on “readers”, and they certainly want to encourage reading during the summer. And yet, the readers today are starting to become more like mini-computers which they will not permit. So…. if you have a kindle, check and see if it is okay. Otherwise, go to the book store and get paper!
5. Computers - Leave them at home. The heat, humidity, and bugs will destroy any computer.
So, if you are sending your child off to the woods, let them enjoy the woods and un-plug from society. Give them a digital break. It will be so worth while. Let them hide from the outside world and bond with the child next to them rather than the old friends in cyber-space. And of course, none of the above applies if you have sent your child to an academic program, enrichment program or specialty program that is at a boarding school or on a college campus.
For practice next year, why not un-plug for a week and see all of the wonderful things you discover? OK. Systems down and I’m back into the woods of New Hampshire!