Should I worry if a camp doesn’t allow cell phones or email?

Dear Stop It Now!
I'm a mom to a 10-year-old girl who would like to go to sleep away camp this summer. The camp that we can afford, and that has offered us a scholarship, has a strict no phone call/no email policy. It seems other camps have the same policy. I am concerned that if my daughter wanted to speak to me urgently that she would not be allowed to, especially if there was inappropriate conduct.  She might be afraid to tell a staff member, or worse- might not be believed. Thanks for the great website.
 

Dear Concerned Parent,
Investigating and understanding the policies of any youth serving program, such as a camp, is absolutely one of the steps protective parents can take in helping ensure a safe environment for their children. It is indeed a part of planning for prevention.

We went to our Board Member Norman Friedman, a camp safety consultant, for further advice. Norm confirmed that this cell phone/email policy is a routine policy at many camps.

As camps hope to offer their campers an experience that includes healthy social interactions and a chance to develop overall confidence and independence skills, they find that electronic devices can interfere and even sabotage a child’s experience in camp. Many camps do not allow cell phones/emails because the goal is to have an electronic-free environment and to move youth away from the constant stimuli of technology.  A child may avoid getting to know his bunkmates or may rely on her parents too much by using these electronics. So while there are very good reasons for a camp to adopt a “no electronics’ use” policy, it is important for parents to understand what everyday safety planning steps can be implemented. (The advent of cyber-bullying has added another reason for camps to limit use of electronics).

Ask about the letter writing policy at your child's camp. Camps that don't allow electronic communications will usually encourage their camper's to write letters home.

There is a difference between a child using a phone to avoid participation in the camp and being able to contact his or her parents if the child feels there is a problem. Norm told us that you should talk with the camp director about their policy on children calling home.  According to Norm, any camp director should be willing to help a child call his/her parents. As Norm says, “this is building a safety net for the child-- and even if the concern is that the grilled cheese was burned, it’s still important for the child to know that they can always call home.” 

Children need to know who they can turn to when they feel unsafe. This can be reinforced at the drop off at the camp—being clear with your daughter about who she can go to if he has problems. We recommend that at least 3 adults at the camp are identified as resources for your daughter to go to if she has a problem.

In addition to talking with the camp director, you should also talk with your daughter about whether she would be willing to go and ask the director to call you. Norm emphasized a parent’s assessment of their child’s readiness to be at camp.  If you think your child would not be comfortable asking the director or another staff member to call home, she should not go. 

Please look at our prevention tools: A Summer of Happy Memories: Camp Safety, and Nine Questions Parents Need to Ask When Selecting a Program for their Child. These tip sheets will help you prepare to further explore this camp’s appropriateness for your daughter. Please do not be afraid to ask the questions you want to know of the camp; a camp should understand parents’ concerns regarding their children’s safety and should be prepared to discuss your concerns. Their response to your questions will help you determine how safe of an environment they can offer your child. 

I hope this information has been helpful and invite you to contact us back with any additional concerns or thoughts. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!

 

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Last edited on: February 7th, 2012