Camp Woodland Blog

From Camp to Home: Totally Unplugged and Fully Connected

Posted by on August 2, 2019

One of the great things about being at camp for 6-weeks is that it gives us all more time to spend just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. Girls can be found chatting about everything under the sun, playing a game of cards, making a sand sculpture at the beach, reading a book, or just being together at one of many favorite gathering spots around camp. From morning to night, camp life provides an uninterrupted flow of friendly conversation and opportunities to do whatever the present moment offers. It is a true luxury to enjoy spending time like this with the amazing people at Woodland.

When campers are asked what they love about Woodland that’s different from home. There are lots of answers to this question, and it’s those differences that help explain why girls love camp. Many of the answers you might expect: “My camp friends… they know the real me,” “There’s so many fun things to do here,” “I love the food at camp.” It may come as a surprise campers also include, “I like not having my phone.” Teen and pre-teen girls who happily give up using their smartphone? Say it isn’t so!

You might expect the opposite, that the girls at camp are missing their phones, that they can’t wait to return to their Instagram accounts or Snapchat streaks. But it’s not true.  Back home though, we’ve all seen it. Their lives revolve around their smartphones, using them for daily communication, socializing and entertainment.  We’ve also seen this technology use effectively rule their lives, with teen girls spending an average of 9 hours per day on their phone, according to one study. Being constantly drawn to those little screens is a powerful force that we all deal with. As this sculpture “Absorbed by Light” portrays, our communication devices are effectively isolating us and distorting what we know about the world and feel about ourselves.

So why is camp different? If girls are happy to not use their phone here, why not at home too? The answer to that question is that at camp there’s simply no need for a phone. The authentic days of camp make any mediating device unnecessary. Here the community provides plenty of socializing, face-to-face communication, and rich real-world entertainment everyday.  Having been at camp for 6 weeks now, campers have become totally unplugged and fully connected with each other. Girls here have lots of free time, but are never bored because there are friends all around, always engaging things to do available, and no pressure to perform a certain way.  At home, unfortunately, all of this is less true, and their smartphones are used to fill the gap.

What’s amazing is that the girls recognize all of this. Living here at camp in this technology-free community has demonstrated for them that their smartphones, while convenient and perhaps even necessary in modern life, are also a burden.  They feel a real sense of relief giving them up and not needing them. They welcome reclaiming those 9 hours per day, freeing themselves to enjoy all that camp offers. Woodland girls love camp because they feel fulfilled without needing their phones.

At home, where the tight-knit community of camp is absent, the challenge is to find a healthy balance between using our phones and the kind of real-world, fully-engaging experience we all crave. The challenge is to structure our time, identifying when using technology is a benefit and when it is distancing us from what we really want and need. The luxury of camp life is not available all year long, after all that’s why we love camp and return to it every summer, but we can recognize what it provides and with this awareness, implement elements of it more broadly.

As you prepare to reunite with your camper(s) this coming weekend, we encourage you to put some thought around fostering this idea of being fully connected at home as well. Take advantage of good habits that have been in practice for well over a month now and help your daughter resist the urge to return to spending more time on a device than with the people around her that matter the most or doing the things she enjoys away from technology. Empower her to lead the way…she is up for the challenge and who knows, you may be too!

another post adapted and inspired by RBC of NC