Do Cell Phones Belong at camp?

Today marks a double dose of green – it’s Clean Air Day and we’re smack in the middle of Canadian Environment Week. So let’s talk about whether we can enjoy the great outdoors sans cell phones.

How’s this for a hot (cell phone) button topic – do you think cell phones belong at camp? For many, this may elicit an immediate, visceral reaction of ‘No way!’ Camp, after all, is a place to experience the great outdoors and not the ‘great indoors’; it’s a place where adventure awaits, where girls and women can challenge themselves and get their nature on. (Oh and roast marshmallows – let’s not forget the marshmallows!)

So where do cell phones fit with the camp experience? Some girls – and Guiders for that matter – may be just as likely to pack their cell phone as a necessity as they would toothpaste, sun block or a water bottle. Girls in 2011 might just be hard-wired with the expectation that they’ll be able to text their friends or parents with updates. And certainly a Guider or two has whipped out their cell phone at camp to check in with home (or get to the next level of Angry Birds).

So how do cell phones fit with the 2011 camp experience?

Girls in the digital generation are looking for an interactive experience. They’re used to collaborating – whether it’s on Facebook or texting incessantly – and often feel the need to know what’s happening RIGHT NOW and not miss out for even a second.

Is banning cell phones at camp the way to go? Or will that only turn off girls and Guiders from signing up for camp? (Recently, the Toronto District School Board, reversing an earlier decision, decided to allow cell phones in classrooms under certain conditions.) Maybe the key is offering a camp experience that is truly collaborative and that allows girls to always be a part of the action.

Should camps only allow cell phones to be used during down time? Or does that just go against the whole point of camp  – developing independence, a stronger sense of self and making new friends.

Which brings us back to our opening question – do cell phones belong at camp? Tell us what you think.

By Mary, GGC staff
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15 Responses to Do Cell Phones Belong at camp?

  1. Jen says:

    I think that it is a good idea for at least one leader to have a phone in case of emergency, but that the girls should leave theirs at home. Camp is a time for building partnerships and learning teamwork with your friends. Phones with all of their apps and gadgets create separation when you want to foster closeness. I also think that kids spend too much time staring at screens and not enough time learning how to enjoy themselves without technology.

    • You’re so right Jen. We just had an impromptu conversation on Twitter about this blog post with comments that mimic your suggestions.
      Someone even offered (although it may sound harsh), that if a girl wants to bring her phone perhaps she should try another camp since she wouldn’t be getting the expereince it could offer if she was on the phone (or thinking about it).

    • Anonymous says:

      The Leaders should have a cell the kids should just leave it at home

  2. Jen says:

    I work as a nurse at a summer camp every year and if you are caught with a phone you are sent home. Do not pass go. It is harsh, but the camp is never hurting for attendees and there is really good compliance with the rule. Camp is a time to get dirty, not for checking on texts. I think it is good for kids to learn the internet will still be there when they get home.

  3. Here are some of the Tweets that also take a tough love approach to cell phones at camp:

    @speakerss “[cell phone] only for leaders, and only to be used discretely away from youth. That’s our rule at summer scout camp.”

    @cndougherty “I’ve allowed cell phones at summer camps, but never give access to power outlets #sneaky #foremergenciesonly”

  4. Anonymous says:

    weekend camp – girls leave them at home. Longer I might consider it, as long as rules were clear at the start.

  5. Alana Raymond (Twitchy) says:

    I can understand a leader taking a cell phone if there is no land line. Otherwise, I see no reason to take a cell phone to camp. Aside from how intrusive they can be, this is an expensive item that can easily be lost or damaged in a camp setting (OK – that’s the practical side that appeals to the parents LOL). My real reason is that camp, for many girls, is an experience totally unlike their every day lives. And you only get the most from it by leaving that “every day” aspect at home. Of course, there is always – who has time for a phone at camp.

    I am lucky in one way, our local Girl Guide camp has no cell phone service, so it is a moot point there. However, I have been at other camps where there is service, and I feel there is no place for the phone, any more than there is for a hair blower or curling iron, at those camps, also.

  6. Kerri says:

    I agree that leaders should have cell phones – even if the camp has a landline. Several years ago I was at Adelaide when a tornado went thru – only way of communication was our cell phones. I was able to call my husband who was able to arrive with generators, ice, water (which also doesn’t work at camp with out hydro) etc so that we could keep the girls safe until parents were able to arrive and take the girls home. Took 3 days to contact all the parents, several who were out of the country to arrange a pickup.
    I have to say in certainly cases and for older girls a cell phone that is limited or only available during certain hrs MIGHT be o.k. I know last year my daughter was at Mosaic – all the computers were broke – lineups were huge for the pay phones and letters to the girls weren’t getting to them in a timely manner, she was feeling a bit homesick but once she spoke to me she was fine. All cell phone would have solved the problem – but I would not have wanted her to have access to it all the time.

  7. Alex says:

    Working with a multi age Guiding unit we’ve come with some ground rules. If there are younger girls (sparks-guides) we have a one emergency cell phone for communications just in case we lose service. If it is the pathfinders and rangers only then they are allowed to come out at me time and at bedtime (mp3 players). They also take them on unaccompanied walks so they have a means of emergency communication. We find that they aren’t used that much because they’re with their friends anyways.

  8. Anonymous says:

    be careful thinking that it is ok for leaders to have them I just spent a weekend at camp were the adults wouldnt get off their phones texting all the time and not watching the kids and then there wae in fighting amungst the adults over time spent with the kids. There are two sides to this I think that it should be something they can have but teach them when is good time to use them. maybe at siesta time they can take them out and recieve their messages and then send a few messages. they will have to realise that they need to use it like e mail not instand messaging .There should be room in camp for both new and old ways. We have to keep up with the times in order to keep the girls comming

  9. Anonymous says:

    A couple of weeks ago I went to a geo-caching workshop… the recomendation there was to download the gps and geo-caching aps and use that when you are out geo caching.
    a week ago I went camping with Pathfinders, 3 of my girls had there cell phones and for the most part that was there alarm clock, one of the girls used it to look up a recipie. we were told of a tornado watch by park staff and than one of the girls used her phone to keep an eye on the weather, The girls also took pictures of eachother and the camp fire with their phones, she is going to email the pics to me and one of them will go on our unit blog. I didn’t see any of the girls were texting at camp, when one of the girls was picked up her Dad asked her if she got his voice mail message about running late to pick her up. She hadn’t because she had her phone in her bag and didn’t check.
    I plan on taking my Pathfinders geo caching in the fall, I will be downloading a compass app, GPS app, geo caching app, a great camp cooking app, and a campfire song book app (all for free). I am embracing light weight camping.

  10. Anonymous says:

    We actually put the questions to our girls at our meeting this week. We have a Guide Unit so girls are ages 9 – 11 and the main reasons that the girls had for having a cell phone at camp was for emergencies. We had a pretty unanimous feeling that cell phones don’t belong at camp. We talked about how while it was good to have a cell phone for emergencies, it was best if only one person (the leader) was in charge of when the phone was used to call for help as that would mean the correct information would get to the correct people at the correct time. We also talked about how parents may feel more secure know that their child has a cell phone with them and thus has a way to call for help, but that talking to a leader before using the phone was really the best choice to ensure that everyone knew what was going on and there was no confusion.

    In the end our unit has decided that it’s a good idea for leaders to have cell phones, but every girl doesn’t need to bring one.

    23rd Guelph Guides

  11. H. Jones says:

    At our last camp I told girls that it was okay to bring cell phones to camp, since some said that they used their phone as a camera and also some parents wanted to be able to get in touch with their child if needed. This worked well expect for one girl, who kept disappearing to text her boyfriend. By the end of the camp my daughter was really fed up: she didn’t have as much fun at camp as she’d hoped because the girl was a friend that she doesn’t get to see every day and she had been looking forward to having fun together. But instead she was asked to give her friend “privacy” or was simply ignored. But I don’t think it would be fair to penilize the other girls who used their cell phones appropriately by banning phones at the next camp. So for our next camp I am going to repeat my expectations, ask them to think about how using their gadget and ignoring others might make someone feel (a lesson many adults haven’t learned yet either!), give everyone a second chance. Use this as a learning opportunity…polite cell-phone use manners is just another skill to learn. Banning all the gadgets completely will just be a strike against girls wanting to come to Girl Guide events (or enourage sneakiness.)

  12. Hi H. Jones, I really like your point that banning altogether could in fact stop girls from attending. Or at least, give them a reason to say ‘that’s why I’m not in Guides’.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I work in a Guide unit (pretty much all our girls are 2nd year so 10) and we only had one child who would bring her cell phone everywhere, meetings, outings, camps, etc. We told her at meetings it was alright as her mother would call if late, but if brought to camps it would be confiscated. She brought it to every camp/overnight and every time we would take it away. We felt it was not appropriate especially as we had a number of girls who were homesick so to have one child who could call home while the others couldn’t, and if one started then they would all want to (we had 28 girls last year so that was not feasible, and we also felt that it could make them feel worse if they talked to their parents). That being said I think it is important for at least one leader to bring a cell phone if they have one for emergencies, but also as a contact for parents in case there is an emergency at home or the group will be delayed or early coming home.

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