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The Hood Magazine

Unplugged at Summer Camp

Feb 25, 2015 07:59PM ● By Hood Magazine
By Alyssa Kuecker, Avera Mckennan Hospital & University Health Center  


When teens bring a smartphone, tablet or other online device to summer camp, they risk missing the whole s’mores-over-the-campfire, snake-in-the-sleeping-bag summer camp experience. Erik Anderson, LCSW, Outpatient Therapist at Avera Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic, lends advice to help parents convince their teen to leave the gadgets at home.

Erik explained that since technology has been playing a significant role in connecting society, it has become a vital tool for teens to stay in touch with friends all day long. Texting and social media use on smartphones give instant feedback and gratification. Therefore, detaching the device from your teen’s hand can be difficult.

In the weeks prior to camp, observe your child’s behavior while interacting with technology to learn whether he or she will have withdrawals. Look for a change in mood while using his or her device, an overwhelming urge to have technology close “in case someone sends a message,” actively choosing to communicate via text and anxiety when separated from technology.

Erik advises tapering off your teen’s technology use in the weeks leading up to camp rather than going cold turkey so he or she can know what to expect. “Instead of focusing on simply taking away the technology and repeating ‘no,’ emphasize the positives in order to help reduce the habit.”

The camp schedule is typically packed with one activity after another, each designed to foster social interaction and enjoyment. There really isn’t any substantial time to spend flipping through Facebook photos, reading a favorite blog or scrolling through Twitter. Trying to catch up on such activities can detract your teen from the few-in-a-lifetime activities, speakers and experiences only found at camp.

“The ‘dangers’ of bringing technology to camp include having an expensive device stolen by another camper or losing it,” said Erik. “Also, bringing technology could lead to social isolation since your teen could be spending too much time on it.” Remember, your teen is already comfortable with those friends in his or her phone, so it’s easier to talk to them rather than branching out to others.

Being surrounded by new peers can make your teen anxious, and he or she may insist on packing a smartphone to ease the discomfort. “It’s important to realize that everyone at camp is new, putting everyone on the same level. Holding onto technology during camp activities segregates your child from making possible friends, which is easy enough by just starting a conversation about what’s happening.”

Your child may claim he or she needs a phone to add new acquaintances from camp. An easy fix: Pack a pen and paper to jot down those connections until arriving home. For capturing memories, pack a digital camera. Disposable cameras are still available, too.

“Children should look forward to the relationships they’ll build with the people they meet as well as the enjoyment of being outside,” reminds Erik. “These moments are remembered for a lifetime, and the friendships could be cherished all life long.”