Kids Struggle to Unplug At Summer Camp

Filed under: Opinions

teen cell phone

Could your teen unplug for a week? Image: sxc.hu

Sending the kids off to summer camp is a time-honored tradition for many families. For parents, sleep-away camp is a rare break from parental duties and a chance to let the kids take some baby steps along the path to adulthood. For kids, it's an opportunity to experience new things, make new friends, and maybe grow up just a little bit.

Yes, summer camp is an exciting adventure for kids lucky enough to go. But for a technology-addicted teen, the simple life of sleep-away camp can also be excruciating. Many camps have rules forbidding electronic devices such as cell phones and computers -- the very lifeline of today's social teens.

For some, a camp's tech toy policy is the deciding factor when choosing where to go. 17-year-old Tim Chai couldn't bear to be without his Facebook access and nixed a church camp because of their no cellphone, no computer policy. "I just thought it was too much for me to handle," said he says. "I love my Internet. I love my phone. I'm not ashamed to say it."
Of course, it isn't just teens who suffer separation anxiety when they must leave the gadgets at home. Mom and dad, who are used to being able to reach out and touch their kids at any time, can also feel out of sorts when that connection is broken.

"It makes me slightly uneasy," says Kimberly Fink, whose 14-year-old daughter will be attending sleep-away camp for the first time this summer. "I will probably be one of the mothers who calls the camp office after a couple of days to check in. Sometimes you just need that reassurance."

There is no shame in loving your Internet and cell phone. But isn't getting outside of your comfort zone kind of the point of summer camp? It's not just about eating s'mores and learning to paddle a canoe. It's about growing through experiences that might initially feel uncomfortable to both teens and their parents.

While I totally get how scary it can be to send your child away to camp to be cared for by someone other than you, I think that if you are going to do it, do it all the way. Fortunately, I am years away from having to deal with this. What about you? Are you sending your kid to summer camp and cutting that cord for a week or so?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.