At Empowered Wellness Camp for young adults and teens, we have incorporated a limited screen time policy while at camp. We often face opposition to this policy from parents and campers as camp starts and by the end of camp we receive positive feedback on how this was an integral part of the program and the camper’s learning.
Our directors have spent many hours establishing this policy; reading articles and research that has helped us navigate this decision. We would like to share with you our reasons why we limit technology at camp.
Relationships are a cornerstone of our program.
Our campers need to develop a relationship with their fellow campers, counselors and most importantly themselves. In order to do this, they need to be fully engaged without distractions.
We find limiting screens allows them to push pause on their social media world and to relate individually with the people right in front of them; The people who will become, hopefully, lifelong friends.
We understand that social media is the new “lunch room” for this generation. It’s their way of connecting and staying connected to their friends and family while at camp. We allow short periods of time for this and for calling home during shower hour.
Due to the phone’s ability to instantly connect, our campers come with an attachment to their phones and social media. Screens can be used as a distraction to avoid difficult or anxious emotions.
We understand that the first few days at camp are filled with anxiety. For some it’s their first time away from home, some have social anxiety, some deal daily with anxiety and depression. We understand this and have trained staff members to help navigate these feelings. We don’t want campers to use distraction to avoid feeling their emotions.
When they do this, they miss out on the opportunity to learn appropriate behaviors and dealing skills to better cope with their emotions.
We also find that our campers occasionally will “dump” their emotions onto parents through distressed texts and calls home as they try and cope with their emotions at camp.
In a nutshell, you are who they are most comfortable with, and when they are feeling discomfort at camp, it’s normal for them to feel a rush of emotion that they then “release” to you.
Often, we see campers who will “dump” their emotions on their parents, and then immediately feel better and go back to enjoying camp.
They just needed to release their emotions.
We know as a parent that those texts and calls can be alarming and make you want to rescue your child. But rest assured, your child’s dump of emotions is his or her way of handling the situation.
With handing off emotions, they have more mental and emotional space to try and tackle problems in a new and positive way.
A very fundamental part of our program is mindfulness. We use mindfulness to be more aware of our emotions, our body’s needs, and enjoying the moments and the foods we eat.
We train our campers to take deep breaths and to sit in a quiet moment.
This is a challenge for some, and it becomes even harder if they have their phone connected to them. Removing screens allows them to forget for a few hours every day that they need to be connected all the time.
This respite allows for deep growth and they settle into a new routine and a new way of thinking.