The camp smart­phone co­nun­drum

Why you must cut that um­bil­i­cal cord

Bayview Post - - Kids -

I’ve been think­ing about camp and iPhones. Ob­vi­ously there’s been a lot of news about how bad our beloved de­vices are for us and how ad­dicted we are to them. And the scari­est part of this is how iPhone ad­dic­tion neg­a­tively af­fects chil­dren. It now seems in­dis­putable that Face­book and its ilk are de­signed by smart peo­ple to be ad­dic­tive, and that grow­ing up glued to an iPhone re­duces at­ten­tion span and is linked to de­pres­sion and so­cial anx­i­ety. And that’s not even the hard part. The hard part for par­ents is know­ing that and yet not be­ing able to ef­fec­tively limit screen time.

Be­cause all the kids are do­ing it. It’s like my daugh­ter, TV and nori. I used to put nori in her lunch be­cause it was a healthy snack. She liked nori but couldn’t bring her­self to eat it at school be­cause it was a weird food (then) and the other kids made fun of her for it. It didn’t help that when they were talk­ing about TV shows (all the time) she had noth­ing to say be­cause we raised our kids with­out TV.

Which made me feel right­eous, made them read­ers and caused so­cial iso­la­tion. Not so good.

Imag­ine try­ing to raise the only kid in the class with­out screens. It’s tricky be­cause kids have to func­tion in the herd, and we know what the herd is do­ing. It’s mostly on­line.

Which brings me back to camp.

Sud­denly it seems that a screen-free sum­mer is the com­pelling rea­son to send chil­dren to camp. Sim­ply be­cause there’s no other op­por­tu­nity for them to go cold turkey and dis­cover that not only does life go on with­out your iPhone, it can be more vivid. You can get closer with your friends when they’re not all tex­ting in the same room. You see things like stars … sun­set … the lake sparkling … kids act­ing silly … to­gether. And you see them for real, not on In­sta­gram.

If I had any doubts about this, the two-phone trick makes me know for sure. Camp di­rec­tors joke about this, but re­ally we should be cry­ing. For kids. All the camps I know are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­creas­ing num­bers of kids bring­ing two iPhones to camp. They all know that camp doesn’t al­low phones, so they take the SIM card out of their cur­rent phone and hand in the phone to the of­fice for the sum­mer. They put the SIM card in their old phone and use the phone when coun­sel­lors aren’t around.

Should I re­ally be get­ting my shorts in a knot about this? Are you?

Only if you be­lieve the in­creas­ing ev­i­dence of the per­ni­cious ef­fects of con­stant on­line ac­tiv­ity. If you don’t think it’s fake news, then cre­at­ing a sum­mer’s worth of haven from screens is im­por­tant.

Which means that sud­denly camps have be­come im­por­tant for a whole new rea­son — and un­for­tu­nately a com­pli­cated one. Be­cause it’s hard for some of us as par­ents to buy into camps’ no-cell pol­icy. Be­cause for all of us — and I in­clude my­self here — we need con­tact with our kids. Mine are grown up and I still need it.

So giv­ing them a cell (or two) to take to camp feeds into our own need for con­tact with them and also our fears (which we all have) that no­body can take as good care of my child as I can, so I’d bet­ter give them a way to get ahold of me if they need me. This raises the thorny is­sue of trust. Be­cause of course the un­stated up­side of iPhones is their um­bil­i­cal as­pect: Our kids are never out of con­tact. We like that. It’s hard for us to give it up.

And give it up we must, if we are to trust them, and the peo­ple we’ve hired to take care of them, in or­der to give our kids the respite they so badly need from 24/7 de­vices. Par­ent­ing colum­nist Joanne Kates is an ex­pert ed­u­ca­tor in the ar­eas of con­flict me­di­a­tion, self-es­teem and anti-bul­ly­ing, and she is the di­rec­tor of Camp Arowhon in Al­go­nquin Park.

Some­times those kid­dies need to be left to their own de­vices (sans ac­tual de­vices)

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