Cell Phones at Summer Camp: a New Challenge

Cell Phones at Summer Camp: a New Challenge

So, what to take to camp? Shorts, t-shirt, pillow (?) bug spray, sunscreen, some writing paper and, oh yeah, a cell phone. A cell phone?

This is the question many parents are facing as the summer months approach. Overnight summer camp is a time-honored tradition that allows kids to grow in an environment completely separate from the usual bounds of home.

At least in the past, the only communication you might have had with your parents or friends at home as a kid at camp was through letters you could write in your down time. Or, maybe through a weekly phone call at the shared pay phone hanging on the wall on the way into the dining hall. Being homesick was tough but once you learned to love it, the newfound freedom could be glorious.

All that has changed with the advent of personal cell phones. If you want, your kids can now literally call you every night- as long as there’s reception at the lake. But is it in their best interest?

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A study done by researchers at the University of Michigan has found there are both pros and cons to giving your child a phone to take to camp.

On the one hand, it can augment a camper’s experience. Not only will the talent show be imprinted on the participants’ minds, but it can also be shared with the whole  family via social media. Everyone gets in on the fun! Dance parties, movies and video game tournaments can abound.

Logistically, cell phones can also help camp staff stay connected with each other and coordinate the day’s events in a more organized way, which is a win.

But the drawbacks exist. Some campers become so preoccupied with their phones that they aren’t aware of the poison ivy they’re about to step into, respondents in the study said. And bedtimes can be drawn out, with kids staying up later than they should, talking to parents.

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It can be complicated.

“As a society, we spend a tremendous amount of our time on screens and with digital media, but we don’t understand the full impact that it is having on children,” said lead author Ashley DeHudy, M.D., a pediatrician at Mott.

“Having time away and connecting with the natural environment is essential. Camp is a really unique opportunity to establish a sense of community and form lifelong friendships. If parents allow kids to unplug from daily life and engage themselves at camp, it will be a very rewarding experience,” she added.

For more on the study and the details involved, click here.

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