that phone in your pocket

13070153-stack-of-cell-phones-isolated-on-white-stock-photo-old-cell-pileAh, the ubiquitous cell phone. If you are a person who pays attention to the world of summer camp, then you know that that little cell phone is a pretty hot topic. Camps have been wrestling with personal technology issues since the Walkman and with ipods and smartphones more prevalent than ever, it isn’t a topic that’s going away.

So, why do we try to keep the phones/ipods/personal technology away? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. Camp Valaqua strongly discourages technology at camp. We do this with our campers and also with our staff, including myself. I have become a smart phone junkie, but when I am at camp, my cell phone stays home. What I want to emphasize is that we don’t do this “just because.” Here are the reasons for our wish to stay as un-virtual as possible

Technology takes a person out of the moment
Camp is an intense, short term event and we want our campers and our staff to connect with every moment of it. Having music in your ears that only you can hear (ear buds) or communicating with someone far away via text or email keeps you from sharing in the music that is all around you and from communicating with people right in front of you. We strive to build community at camp and that can only happen when we are present to participate in the community

Cell phones and Ipods are expensive
Cell phones are a sign of status among young people. Having the latest and greatest smart phone or mp3 player bestows a certain status on the owner and can create barriers to relationship forming.
Modern phones are also very expensive and not particularly robust. Having a phone get smashed or go for a swim is not something that any of us want. The camp environment is notoriously hard on equipment and especially equipment as fragile as a cell phone or ipod.

It is an issue of trust
I am a parent myself and I am honored by the trust that so many parents show us each year when they choose Valaqua to drop off their kids. At Camp Valaqua, our number one priority is to ensure that your child is safe but we will not downplay the fears you have as a parent leaving your child in another’s care. We understand the wish to be able to communicate with your child and that wish may even be reciprocated by your son or daughter but it becomes an issue of trust on several levels:
First, you need to trust your son or daughter. One of the areas that we see kids grow in leaps and bounds at camp is self-confidence and this is because they are given the space to make their own decisions. We need to trust our kids enough to give them this room.
Secondly, we ask you to trust us. Camp Valaqua has been running summer camps for more than 50 years. Our staff members are carefully vetted and the majority of them have grown up in our programs. We know them well and we train them thoroughly. As a parent myself I am keenly aware of what I ask here and I know this is a challenge, but I want you to know that we have your child’s best interest at heart. Always.
Valaqua is not a “no phone calls home” camp. If phone calls to mom or dad will help your child be successful, we will happily make arrangements. Our goal is for your child to have a successful week here at camp and we will do everything in our power to make that happen.

We all need to unplug from time to time
Canadian children today average over 7.5 hours of screen time A DAY. This number staggered me. Our country is facing an epidemic of obesity that springs inarguably from our sedentary behaviour. At camp we teach kids that it is possible to have fun without a power outlet. One of the comments we here more and more from our campers and staff is a deep appreciation for the chance to unplug.
There is a spot down by the river at Valaqua where flowers grow. The rhythms of the spring and summer can be measured by the beats of the bursts of wildflowers. Wood lilies stand tall and bold in early July, the bluebells hang fragile and swing in the wind as the month moves on, Goats beard climbs high and bursts forth bright yellow in early August, Yarrow blooms white and then goldenrod comes out yellow as the summer winds its way into fall. We walk through this place every day in summer as we make our way to waterfront or to an overnighter spot. The peace I feel in this place helps to remind me the importance of unplugging in our hectic lives.

Your phone won’t work here
Also, cell phones don’t work too well here. Our corner of creation is remote enough that cell coverage is spotty at best and non-existent at worst.

And that is the long way of saying that we will remain a mostly technology free site at Valaqua. It’s not because we hate technology. It’s not because we are control freaks. It is to help make the camp experience a more profound one and to give the kids who come here the best possible chance to succeed.

What do you think? This is a hot issue. Have an opinion? Share it with us!

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