A Whole Summer Without my Phone??  Seriously!

There are so many great things about summer camp – I could write volumes, but right now I’d like to concentrate on one that the previous generation couldn’t have even dreamt of, a summer as a technology break.  Let me be clear though.. I am only referring to the devices that have become our new best friend, the smart phone.

When my children were coming into their teens (all Yavneh alum), each one got a phone at an earlier age. They asked earlier and we seemed to find the justification for why it would be important for them.  No doubt, even as adults many of us are just as attached to our phones as our kids.  The only real difference is that we had enough time in our lives without them to develop the face-to-face communication skills so necessary to thrive.

This is where camp comes in.  Don’t misunderstand; at Yavneh we LOVE our technology.  How would parents feel if they didn’t see MANY pictures of their kids posted online constantly?  How about the blogs the unit heads write twice a week?  The weekly update videos?  All enabled by staff with technology.  Our programs are also enhanced by technology.  Birkat Hamazon (Prayers after meals) is projected on the wall to help people follow along.  As a very musical camp, having the words of songs projected enables the campers to be more involved in learning and seeing.

It’s the constant head down non face-to-face communications – it’s amazing seeing kids able to look each other in the eye and focus on both their verbal and non verbal communication skills.  Our kids spend 10 months tethered to their devices in a way that they feel unshackled when they come to camp.  Over and over I hear from campers how much they enjoy being tech free for the summer.

Just another benefit of summer camp we couldn’t have envisioned a generation ago.  Dor l’dor Yavneh!

  • This, is for sure, one of the best things about camp today! As a Kerem 2000, I remember a Yavneh where no one thought of cell phones. If we wanted to communicate with the outside world, we wrote letters or found a pay phone on trip day. It has been many years since I have been back to Yavneh, life has taken me many places since being a camper, but I am glad to hear that it remains a gadget-free camp.

    So much of who I am today came from my camp experiences. I still love to write letters to people. I remember the nights sitting outside BK having guitar jam sessions, or metaphysical discussions on topics we probably didn’t know anything about. Of course there were also the nights we spent “not in our cabin,” but probably best not discussed here ;-). Point being, these were interpersonal experiences, no screens or gadgets.

    Having worked at other camps and generally with kids and students, I very much see the necessity in life today to “disconnect to reconnect.” Technology is a double-edged sword that we constantly need to learn how to utilize appropriately. All too often I have to remind myself that I should put down the devices in favor of interacting with the people right in front of me!

    I have seen kids show up to summer camp with dummy cell phones, such that when asked to turn theirs in for the summer, they handed us a dummy and kept the real one. I see camps now that offer “phone times” for kids to call home each week, and I think back to my summers at camp and how I never felt the need to call my parents except maybe if there was a convenient pay phone on a trip. I mean they got a minimum of two letters from me every week!

    Our technology and gadgets may make life easier, may connect friends and family over great distances, but sometimes disconnecting and returning to a simpler life does us worlds of good. It is one of the reasons why I will send my kids to camp when they are old enough, and why I will do my best to regulate my own use of techno-gadgets at home, to instill the interpersonal skills, foster face-to-face interaction, and also instill some love of the outdoors in my children.