Should girls bring tech to camp?

It started when a Brownie asked if she could bring her iPod Touch to camp. Our packing list says no electronic devices at camp. Cameras are optional. The Brownie (and her parents) understood, but she explained that her iPod is her camera. She added that her parents didn’t want to buy a camera when she already had the iPod. She also said one of her favourite things to do at camp was to “make movies” with the other Brownies. (I can attest to this – they do love recording performances, and watching them in playback.) Camp was five days away. What to do…

My first instinct was to say no. I imaged the tension that having an iPod at camp might cause. Would others perceive it as unfair – why would an iPod be OK, but not a DS? Would the leaders have to intervene to ensure that the iPod was only being used as a camera? I didn’t answer right away. I thought I should consider the question from a range of perspectives. I am in multi-branch unit, from Sparks to Pathfinders, and we camp together. I knew I needed to consider that, too. I promised to answer the Brownie’s family in time to pack.

I asked the other leaders. Opinions ranged. We could:

  • Stick with the original policy – it works
  • Make an exception, and say that the iPod must be used only as a camera
  • Allow the iPod and collect it, and all the cameras to control their use

We chose to stick with the original policy. I emailed the family with the full explanation, and asked that it be shared with the Brownie. I also offered the use of my camera. I am glad that I did. Her mom replied right away, saying how much she appreciated our respectful approach.


Camp was a blast. Cameras were used to take traditional memory-making pictures, (me: “why are you taking a picture of that s’more?” Brownie: “I want to remember how awesome it tasted!!”) and for very silly performance movies. We laughed a lot.

But this isn’t over. We’re travelling to the Girl Guides of Canada Ontario and Nunavut One Voice Rally Day soon. Five hours in a bus. A Spark wants to bring her LeapPad. The Rally Day information included “a camera or a smartphone to take pictures” in the “what to bring” section. I sent our families a survey to ask their opinions. We’ll be asking all the girls what they think, too. To be continued…

By guest blogger Kathryn Lyons, a Guider with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Unit.


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9 Responses to Should girls bring tech to camp?

  1. Claudia, 2nd Kanata North Sparks says:

    I like the compromise. The other benefit to your method is that you have control over how the pictures/videos are used and distributed. Not all girls have their image releases OK’d, and by allowing the girls to use the cameras, but that they ultimately come back to you, ensures the safety of the girls who have asked for their images not to be released.

  2. Clair Proulx says:

    I really liked your approach to the camera, and yes you have a long trip, but again where do you draw the line so to speak. As some may have the iPod and other that don’t. I would rather try and hook up a movie on the bus for all to see or not. As again we get into those situations of she has , I don’t.

  3. Michelle says:

    I think it depends on age a maturity levels. An older guide or pathfinder can be responsible for it, keep it safe, and ensure it doesn’t get lost of broken. A spark? I’m not sure. I think if it does get allowed you need to be very clear to parents that you are not in any way responsible for it. If darling daughter loses/breaks/fights over it then you (and the unit) are not responsible. I’d also be sure to have ground rules for use. For instance any fighting means it is taken away. Use that bothers others (ie music in a tent early morning) is not allowed etc. Setting guidelines for use and letting kids know what is acceptable is key.

  4. Meredith says:

    I was in the guiding movement when I was younger, and when we went to camp, the only technology that we could bring with us was a camera. I realize today that the girls have the age of “technology” such as Ipods, Smartphones, and other related equipment. While the girls may want to remain “connected” during camp, they should leave them at home. The whole point of going to a camp is team building, problem solving, learning outdoor survival skills, learning to understand the flora and fauna in the area, and to enjoy the outdoors. If someone brings their smart phone or ipod with them to camp, it doesn’t help them to appreciate the outdoors and the wilderness.

  5. Natasha Jai says:

    I’m looking forward to the results of your survey!!
    I’ve always followed the “no technology at camp” rule with my girls. As technology has gotten more and more advanced (iPods that are cameras is a perfect example!) The debate has gotten less black and white.

  6. Sort It says:

    I’m a Brownie leader, but I also work with teenagers at our church. We have never allowed technology at camp, and I’m inclined to continue to do so. Technology can be isolating (texting, gaming, etc), and it’s easy to get “lost” in your word, and stop interacting with those around us. Also, there’s the risk of loss or damage. I would feel quite bad for a girl whose camera or phone gets broken. Also, what about girls who can’t afford such luxuries. I think that they would feel left out.

    Call me a traditionalist, but camp is meant to be “roughing” it. I don’t even let our girls bring electric toothbrushes! 😛 They are surrounded by technology all day, everyday, and I think that being removed from it for a short time is quite healthy. Some girls may not know what that feels like.

    Lastly, with the number of “selfies” I see plastered all over Facebook walls, I’m concerned that we are also becoming self-absorbed. We are taking in our world through our phone (camera), without truly experiencing it first hand. Can you tell I’ve given this some thought? 😉

  7. Victoria says:

    Great post and I admire your open approach when dealing with the situation.

    Recently we took girls to a ‘no electronics’ camp, but a couple guides brought iPads anyway. At camp they were not allowed to use them, but on the drive home (1.5hrs) we caved. And I’m kind of glad we did. Girls can get restless on a long drive and when two girls are sitting shoulder-to-shoulder like that, I don’t find the electronics isolate them, more so they seem to bring them together and occupy them. No one’s bored or unruly, they’re engaged with their seat partner. And I liked that.

    I’m young enough to remember ‘no electronics’ camps. Gameboys and MP3 players were the main concerns, and even with ‘no electronics’ policies they were still packed and brought along to camp. But the thing is, they were never used. Camp is so jam-packed that playing with an electronic was the last thing anyone wanted to do.

    I think I’m erring on to side of allowing them for long car/bus rides, but keeping them packed away at camp.

  8. says:

    I’m a Trex leader and we have a strict “put it away while we’re doing stuff, no listening to music while hiking in the backcountry BUT if you like to listen to music in your tent, that’s cool. But remember you bring it, you’re responsible for it” policy.

  9. Tara says:

    This is an interesting dllemma and one I was just thinking about as we head to camp for the weekend. As a leader I am bringing by camera and would like to bring my iPad to take pictures as well, but I think I will just be bringing my camera. It wouldn’t be fair for me to be able to bring my iPad if the girls can’t bring their electronics. I think a lot more girls have iPod touches that they use for their camera as the image quality has improved a lot. It may be something that we’ll have to revisit at some point down the road. No one has actually argued with our unit about it yet but we will cross the bridge when we come to it.

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