The Camp Activity I Would Never Stand For

Photo: Rob Fahey/Flickr
Photo: Rob Fahey/Flickr

The day camp my son goes to has a strict no-electronics policy — kids can’t bring them and the camp doesn’t provide them. The director sent an email home saying so. I thought the note was unnecessary — for one, it’s an old-timey camp where they have nature studies and talent shows and canoeing. The place doesn’t even have air conditioning. Second, it’s summer camp! Why would there be electronics?! But when

I was chatting with our babysitter about it she told me that the summer camp she used to work for was different. The kids weren’t allowed to bring iThings either but the campers all got an hour a day to play video games. They called it "Wii Time." They also got an hour of "computers," but it's not like the kids were learning to write code or something else useful, they were playing Angry Birds and dressing Barbie avatars.

I don’t mean to be old fashioned, but I would file this under “What the #^&!^* is this world coming to?” Is zoning out to video games so ubiquitous that it’s infiltrated summer camp? I know my babysitter’s experience is not unique. I’m sure this happens more than any of us realizes, especially since many camps that allow TV watching and video game playing don’t necessarily advertise it on their websites. And while I get that kids (and counselors) need down time and inside time, isn’t that what arts and crafts are for? What happened to lanyard making*? What about creating dream catchers out of popsicle sticks and yarn?

Don’t get me wrong, we are not a no-electronics family. I let my kids play on the iPad sometimes and watch TV, but we limit it and I generally reserve screen time for when I need a break or when we’re doing it together as a family. When I’m essentially paying someone else to entertain my kids — in a summer-camp setting, no less — I expect them to do it sans technology. And I expect my kids to run around and play and make new friends and learn new things and have fun without being anywhere near a screen.

I know there are computer camps for kids who are really into technology and there are probably video game camps, too. To each his own. But for me, screen time at summer camp would never fly. Would it for you? Honestly, it’s the last thing my kids need. When I asked my 6-year-old son what he thought of video games and computers at camp and he responded with, “Hmm, that sounds kind of antisocial.” (We’ve used the antisocial explanation for why he can’t bury his head in a device). And then a minute later he said, “Mom, speaking of antisocial, can I have the iPad?” Kids these days.

*I am not quite sure what a lanyard is but I know I made them at camp and damn it, it was fun.