Technology at Camp | How to interact, or not

The age-old debate over whether to allow campers and staff the use of various forms of technology at camp still hasn’t be settled.  Camps still go back and forth about what to do, and both “sides” of this issue have very good reasons for the choice they eventually make.  I’m not going to get into the pros and cons here, because we’ve all hashed those out probably dozens of times with other staff, board members, parents, campers, and the list goes on.  Instead, let’s consider a few ways to make your choice –whatever that is– as effective and helpful as possible for you, your staff, and your campers.  Because even a good choice, if used poorly, can become a bad one.  And that goes both ways.  So here are a few pointers as you plan your technology strategy, or lack thereof.

  1. Decide.  This is a simple step, but one that is actually neglected.  Particularly in the case of camp summer staff, camps don’t always have a clear decision regarding the use of technology at camp.  Can staff have their cell phones around camp?  Just in their rooms?  Not at all?  Can they use phones as alarms?  What about stereos in the cabins for the campers?  How does the camp feel about cameras in general?  Headphones?  Video games?  Think about what your stance is on technology for everyone (you might have different rules for different sets of people), but do it before they get there so they have a clear understanding of the expectations.
  2. Be consistent.  Do you allow cell phones for pictures only?  Doesn’t seem like a smart move…but let’s ignore that for the moment.  If that’s the stance you’ve chosen, be sure that you make that the rule across the board.  If you see a camper using their phone for something else, be sure there are consequences.  Is the rule no cell phones in the cabins, for anyone?  Then that counselor who wants to use his as an alarm needs to be given an alarm clock.  Or the rules need to be changed, for every counselor. Consistency is vital to enforcing the requirements you’ve created, because it shows everyone that you are fair.  People are much more willing to live by the rules, even if they hate them, when everyone has the same rules.  Think about your kids (or yourself as a kid) and your bedtime.  You didn’t think anything of the 9pm bedtime…until your older sister was allowed to stay up until 10pm.  Then you hated it!  Similar idea with consistency at camp.
  3. Don’t be lax.  If you don’t think your technology decision is worth the follow-up of consequences and possible punishments, you’ve probably made the wrong decision.  Did you decide no tech belonged anywhere on camp, at all?  Then you need to punish the staff member who kept their phone in their cabin.  Pretending not to know is not an option.  It will simply send the message to everyone else that the rules aren’t meant to be enforced.

Here’s an article that will help you understand how to set up a social media policy (this is the one for staff and the rules regarding pictures, etc.)

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