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The Goodness of a Phone-Free Setting at Camp

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The Goodness of a Phone-Free Setting at Camp

By Susan Bradley Arico, Deer Run Alumna and Parent

I was a Deer Runner from 1986 to 1991 and we didn’t have phones. Obviously!

Flip phones didn’t come into circulation till the late 90’s, so even when I was on staff I didn’t have one. It was a different time.

There was in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, a simple, carefree, nature-first feel to camp. And blissfully, there still is today. It’s more important than ever.

Camp functions as a return to innocence, to the unhindered beauty of the natural world; it’s a setting where souls can be recharged and faith in God rejuvenated. And the fact is, these occur much more readily when devices are omitted.

Camp has always been great for kids for a thousand reasons, but today a widely-touted one is the respite it offers from the modern over-connected life. Phones and other devices aren’t allowed at camp, so the weeks that kids spend there often serve as digital detox.

While they’re at camp, kids are, only and always, in the present moment and in the company of IRL (in real life) peers – no virtual ones. There’s no checking of texts. No scrolling of media or watching of clips. No selfies. No decisions about what to post or not. A total reprieve from FOMO (fear of missing out). This kind of simple, what-you-see-is-what-you-get world is foreign to the vast majority of today’s kids. And in a world where play is vanishing, camp (with the help of its phone-free policy) restores it.

Even children who don’t have phones benefit from camp being a phone-free environment. The average age for a child to get a smartphone is 10. That means if a kid is 11 or 13 and doesn’t yet have a phone, she often feels like the odd one out among peers. This is true of my children, and I know for many others.

Suddenly at camp the playing field is even on the digital front; everyone has the same rules and parameters. Everyone has no phones together. Not only does this open the door to all kinds of relationship opportunities among peers, it generates fresh dynamics and fosters a new kind of freedom.

Phone-free time allows us to deepen our appreciation of the present moment, heightens focus, fosters rest, enables solitude, strengthens relationships, and engenders contentment. It’s a gift for all of us – not just our kids!

But especially for our kids – here’s to all of that and more this summer (and every summer) at camp. This year all four of ours will be campers, and I’m beyond grateful that Brookwoods and Deer Run will bestow on them (among many other blessings) the gift of a tech-free environment.

Susan Bradley Arico is a writer and screen coach, working on her first book, Hold the Phone: You Don’t Have to Ditch your Cell to Live a Life of Presence. She was a Deer Run camper from 1986-1991 and was on staff in 1994, 1996, and 1997. Her husband York was also on Brookwoods staff. The Aricos now reside in Connecticut. You may contact Susan, or view more of her writing on her blog, Instagram, or Facebook.




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