Like many sleepaway camps, my daughter J’s camp has a fairly strict “no technology” policy. The packing list for camp clearly states that campers are not allowed to bring cell phones, e-readers or MP 3 players that can play videos (music alone is acceptable.)
As I wrote in Surviving the First Summer of Sleepaway Camp, the first year J went to sleep away camp it felt very unnatural to me not to be able to speak to her every day. Of course, the camp did allow and encourage good old-fashioned letter writing. But in this age of instant gratification communication, it was frustrating having to wait three or four days for a letter. “Snail mail” was “stale mail.” By the time I got it, the information was literally “so last week.”
But this year, I’m really appreciating that camp gives my daughter the opportunity to be tech-free for almost two months (although I admit, I did gripe a bit at having to buy bound books for her to read).
Although during the school year, J does participate in sports and hangs out with friends on weekends, much of her socialization is done via technology. J and her friends are rarely without their cell phones, and yet they rarely talk on the phone. Instead, they use their phones primarily as a mobile media device—checking Facebook, texting, surfing the Internet, etc. Sometimes, even when they are physically together, they are still using their phones or computers.
When my daughter says she “called” a friend, she means she connected with them via chat or Facebook. Occasionally, online chatting has resulted in miscommunication. Reactions are more immediate and sometimes more extreme than they would be in person. Without voice tone, a joke can seem like an insult and feelings can get hurt. And then there’s the matter of social media outlets and the posting of events that have occurred, ones they may or may not include the kids viewing the photos.
But at camp there is no need to send an Evite or a Facebook notice. Everyone is invited to participate in all activities. The kids socialize 24/7 without a screen between them. They talk, instead of type, about everything. They have to negotiate face to face about keeping the bunk clean and choreographing skits, etc.
They learn the art of conflict resolution. They see what a person’s face looks like when their feelings have been hurt and they understand the impact of their words. My daughter’s bunk had a meeting last week (supervised by a counselor) to address an issue where one camper felt several other campers were being unkind. By talking and listening they were able to address the issue and resolve it.
Without cell phones and Internet the kids are able to concentrate and be present in the here, rather then multi-task and worry about what is going on where they are not. At camp, my daughter can’t “LOL” so instead she really laughs out loud—no emoticons necessary. The emphasis at camp is on doing things, not on letting other people know what you did. When I see in pictures of my daughter at camp I see a girl too busy living her summer to report on it. In fact, she has no time to report even to me.
I Shouldn’t have complained about those snail mail letters – I miss them.