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The benefits of children having summers unplugged

I recently wrote about a counselor training event we call our Parent Forum. We invited a group of camp parents to sit on a panel and discuss with our staff why they chose our camp, and why it is such a good fit for their family. During the event Felicia, a mom from Boston, told a story that really stuck with me. She said that over the winter she took drove her teenage son and his two camp friends to a buddy’s bar mitzvah in New York. On the way there, rather than using the trip to text, Snapchat and play Madden Mobile, the three camp friends talked and laughed with each other the entire drive. And the entire drive back. As she told the story she pointed out that as close as he may be with his home friends, when they are on a car ride together each spends the trip fully engrossed in their electronic devices. It’s only with his camp friends that he will voluntarily take a break from technology and truly interact. 

summers unplugged

This story has stayed with me for a few days, and it continues to make me smile. The outcome she described — lasting, deep, meaningful peer relationships — are in part, a product of camp’s insistence that our campers have summers unplugged. No internet, no phone, no access to devices with video screens whatsoever. 7 weeks of a true technology holiday.

This morning, just as I was thinking about this story for the umpeenth time my phone rang. It was a longtime camp parent from NY wondering if there were nuances to our unplugged summer camp policies that she wasn’t aware of. She had never asked before because she had never before been concerned about her child’s dependence on mobile devices. This spring one of her children had reached adolescence and suddenly could barely be separated from her phone and its apps. 

She already knew that we didn’t allow our campers to use their phones and tablets at camp, but was wondering if we put any limits on what our counselors do (and what they do around their campers), since our staff are such role models to our campers. I was overjoyed to have this conversation!

Learn more about our unplugged summer camp


Our Director of Counseling Deena Sebell in front of our counselor electronics lockers

Do you see the picture of the lockers? Those are located in the basement of our dining hall, and this summer each and every camp counselor will have to lock their phones and laptops in them when they are working with our campers. This includes time in the bunk. We let our counselors know back when there was still snow on the ground that if they wanted to have music in their cabins this summer that they would need to buy a simple mp3 player, since iphones and other similar devices would not be in the bunks. Period. 

“But what about on trips?” I shared with her that we had purchased waterproof and smashproof cameras for our counselors to take on adventure trips and tournaments to record their favorite moments…and then not post them on social media. We really want our campers to have the gift of summers unplugged.

RELATED: The importance of everyone, including adults, unplugging from our electronics

As we were speaking the mom offered a suggestion: that during one of my Friday Night Sermons this summer I should find a way to have a conversation with our community about the importance of unplugging from technology, and some of the pitfalls of excessive involvement in social media. She hoped that hearing it from camp, and not from a parent, might help this important message might hit home better. I really love this idea and accept her challenge. Once it’s written I will post it in a future summer blog.

Read some of our campers’ favorite
sermons from this past summer

It’s becoming clearer and clear to physicians, psychologists and parents that our children need extended time away from their screens. It’s important for their social relationships, their brain development, and for their overall health. It’s why we are so committed to providing our campers with summers unplugged, and I love that our camp parents recognize it as such an important part of their childrens’ development! 

Download Our Summer Camp’s Brochure