Kids Benefit from Unplugging at Summer Camp

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At camp, there are no plugs, no cords, no chargers, no cables and no screens. Campers and staff are asked to set aside their electronic devices so they can focus on all that camp has to offer. We spoke with Calvin Bennett, National Director of Inter-Varsity’s Camp Ministry (East), and asked him to share some of his thoughts about why kids benefit from unplugging at summer camp.

In the absence of mobile phones and video games, kids at camp benefit from being unplugged and start to find their life can be full of joy and many other things…

Face-time instead of Facebook. Instead of being glued to their screens with “friends” on social media platforms like Facebook, they have face-time with other campers while waiting in line at the tuck shop or goofing off in the dining hall. Without the trappings of texting, Twitter, and Instagram, campers are free to focus on building relationships with someone right in front of them. They learn how to meet new friends, have a conversation in person, and work through conflict with others.

Engagement instead of entertainment. Even in the quiet moments, while kids are waiting for something, they have learned to reach out for a device to stay entertained. Calvin says, “I see increasingly there isn’t room in people’s lives to hear from God. At camp, kids are given time and space to hear from God and think about things.” In quiet moments around a camp fire or during time with their chalet/cabins at night, without the opportunity to escape into virtual reality, campers have time to engage with the important questions of life.

Activity instead of apathy. The increasing use of entertainment revolving around screens means kids are adopting a sedentary lifestyle. Gone are the days where they ride their bikes around the block; kids are more likely to want to stay inside and resign to staring at a screen. At camp, instead of mind-numbing apathy, kids get active running around and being out in nature.

For parents who are concerned about being just a text message away from their children at camp, we encourage you to trust the staff to be in touch when necessary and to allow your kids the opportunity to work through the struggles they face at camp on their own. Kids gain confidence when they go through the process of problem-solving in a safe environment with mentors guiding the way.

As for the rest of the year when kids are in their regular routine, one of the things that Calvin has found helpful is to set limits on the amount of time and the times in the day when his family has “screen time.” Much like in a camp setting without technology, screen-free times allow space for conversation and community to form.

Other articles that might interest you about unplugging at camp:

“Sleepaway camp gives kids a tech break, and might even save your marriage”  (CNN)

“Summer camp: unplugged or unfair?” (Huffington Post)

“At tech-free camps, people pay hundreds to unplug” (NPR)

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