Iroquois Springs recently sent an email to all camp families regarding the Electronics Policy.  In this season of giving, it was a helpful reminder about which devices are allowed in our “unplugged” camp environment, only allowing devices that do not have games or videos or the capacity to chat with another device. The email inspired praise from parents.  The positive feedback we received about the electronics policy and philosophy of an unplugged camp experience is a true testament of the times.  Living in a world of constant screen time, parents truly appreciate that their child will get a much-needed break from their phones, computers, video games, and the constant barrage of online information they receive and respond to on social media.  Camp allows kids to unwind and experience a summer filled with excitement, fun and friendship.

Technology and the internet have many advantages, providing endless information and convenience, but constant screen time is distracting us from living in the moment and interacting in the world.  Kids today don’t know a world without cell phones and the internet, and are spending more time than ever on electronic devices.  They are receiving their own cell phones at younger ages than ever before, and constant texting is a normal part of staying connected to friends and world issues.

Research shows that kids and teens are spending approximately 7 hours a day bent over a screen texting, gaming, and consumed in a digital world.  Half of all teens report feeling addicted to their mobile devices.  And this addiction replaces social interaction, robs kids of real world experiences, and can have a negative impact on their development.  Studies show that cell phone addiction can create low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, neck and eye problems, and most shocking, dependency on rewards associated with the internet as opposed to rewards of spending time with friends and family, achieving good grades, and participating in activities.  There is even a term coined by researchers, “Facebook depression”, to define the depression associated with excessive social media use.

As technology becomes increasingly prominent in young people’s lives, summer camp has never been more important!  Camp allows kids to develop social and emotional skills by taking healthy risks, making independent decisions and forming friendships, without the judgments of a group text or social media network.  Camp gives a generation of “plugged in” kids a breather from virtual relationships and allows campers to make real connections, build lasting friendships and engage in real life experiences.   Campers can immerse themselves in nature, try new activities, build skills, develop leadership, increase responsibility, and build self-confidence.  Without screens, campers can communicate face-to-face and learn to work together to resolve conflicts. There are no emojis needed at camp, campers communicate with real facial expressions.  LOL and OMG are replaced with real laughter and genuine surprise.  Campers don’t text how their day was, but instead grab a pen and write letters home to friends and family.   Campers don’t sit in front of the Xbox playing video for hours, but spend hours participating in physical activities and challenges that build endurance and confidence.  Campers don’t view pictures on Instagram to see what people are up to, everyone at camp is at the get-together!  We are thankful that IS parents and campers embrace the electronics policy and appreciate the opportunity to unplug and experience camp life in real time.

Camp takes away the pressure to rely on technology, and puts the focus back on community and fun! Camp provides the perfect opportunity to connect face-to-face and build friendships that last a lifetime.  Being unplugged at camp allows campers to be fully immersed in camp life.  Technology will continue to grow and advance as the years go on, but thankfully our children have Iroquois Springs and a moment each summer to take a much needed break from screen time.