The No Phone Zone

It was opening day of one of our sessions. The bus had arrived about an hour earlier, and kids were busy getting unpacked, taking swim tests, and meeting their koogeemates. The phone rang and on the other end was a very angry mom. “My son just got to camp and all of his friends are in a different cabin. He is already miserable and I want to know what you are going to do about it.”

My first response was, “Can you tell me how you know your son is miserable?”


“That is not important. What’s important is that a mother knows when her child is upset and I want to know how you are going to fix it.”


Can we please start by having an open and honest dialogue about the situation? It might go something like this:


“Look, my son wanted to take his phone to camp and as a mom, I wanted him to be able to contact me anytime, so I let him take it. He has been texting me since he got to camp that he is sad he isn’t with his friends.”

“I understand completely how hard it is to let your son go away for 2 weeks for the first time. We will clear up the problem with the koogee, and we will ask him to turn in his cell phone to the office until the end of the session so that he can really experience all that camp has to offer.”


We talk about our policy on electronics, and why it’s important to “disconnect to reconnect.” Cell phones cause problems, and there are many reasons why we don’t let campers have them. But there are some really important reasons for our “no cell phone policy” that might not be as obvious.

  1. Kids who have access to a cell phone will not be able to fully immerse themselves in camp. They cannot really be present and participate in camp if they are constantly texting or web surfing. And for the money you invested to send him to Deerhorn, don’t you want him to get the most out of it that he can?
  2. Kids who have a cell phone are less likely to be able to conquer homesickness when it hits. We don’t let homesick kids call home for this exact reason. He can’t overcome those feelings of sadness if he is in constant contact with home. And going back to reason #1, a kid who isn’t involved in camp activities is much more likely to be homesick.
  3. Kids cannot learn to problem solve while they are attached to a cell phone. A camper who gets to camp and finds he’s not in the right koogee can talk to his counselor or a director, and we will get the problem fixed. Problem solving is one of the greatest skills kids can learn, and an ability and confidence in problem solving will serve kids well as they grow up. There is no need for them to try to work out interpersonal differences, or work through small issues that come up at camp if they are attached to a cell phone, relying on their parents to call the directors and fix it. Kids need to know they are capable, and that you believe they can do it.

    We know how hard it is to send your son away for several weeks, especially for the first time. We also know it’s hard to not be able to talk to him for those weeks. But we have these policies in place for the benefit of the campers. We want them to grow and succeed just like you do. We see ourselves as your partners, helping you raise sons who are brave, strong, self-reliant problem solvers.


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