Phone-Sick At Camp: The Benefits of Screen Free Time

Attending summer camp for many children is a major step toward independence while still having fun and making life long friends. Spending time in a phone-free camp encourages kids to make decisions on their own without parent advice. However, breaking away from phones and the constant contact is just as hard for parents as is it for children. A recent NY Times article, Phone-Sick At Camp, discusses the need for a phone-free summer at camp plus provides advice for parents on how to prepare for the summer.

At Camps Chipinaw and Silver Lake we believe a screen-free summer helps our campers develop soft skills they don’t get to develop at school. They practice independence, teamwork, communication and problem solving face-to-face rather than through a phone.

You can read a portion of the NY Times article below.

Kids are on their phones in school, in restaurants, on vacations and even in bed. For many, sleepaway camp remains one of the last oases, largely untouched by technology. “Camp is a sacred space to unplug and be able to learn independence and social skills,” Dr. Uhls said. “It’s really important to put devices down and practice the art of face-to-face communication.”

Putting down the phone can be hard for the parents too, who are often anxious about separating from their children and are used to constant check-ins, whether they are in the next state or the next room.

With this constant communication, children seek their parents’ guidance and emotional support even when they are not together, leaving fewer opportunities to develop their own confidence and internal compass for decision-making. Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and the author of the parenting book “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” tells the story of a college student at a salad bar who texted her mother to ask if she liked ranch dressing, rather than testing it herself. Such dependent relationships can rob children of the chance to trust and believe in someone else besides their parents. Creating bonds with others is one of the most important benefits of camp, and it is more likely to happen without the electronic connection to home.

To prepare to detach for camp, Dr. Thurber recommends families try one tech-free day per week over the month before camp, with no recreational screen time. “It’s good to practice some withholding from real-time digital communication and learn to not reflexively reach for cellphones,” he said.

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