How to have a conversation with your kids about leaving cellphones at home

It’s more and more common for kids of all ages to own cell phones and other mobile devices. My 10-year-old daughter personally benefited from my last cell phone upgrade, inheriting my old iPhone. I figured it was a perfect way for her to familiarize herself with the technology with no impact on my chequing account.

Then the pandemic happened.

Her phone quickly became less of a luxury and more of a necessity. She used it daily for online learning, watching instructional videos and socializing with friends that she couldn’t see in person due to health and safety restrictions. That said, I still monitored her use of the phone, and have had to have (many) conversations about the importance of putting the phone down and enjoying life in the moment instead of through a screen.

If you plan to send your child to overnight summer camp, you might find yourself having a similar conversation with them. There might be a desire from them to bring along their mobile device for the week. This could stem from homesickness and wanting a direct line of communication to home, or it could simply be a matter of wanting to have entertainment at their disposal during their time away.

Whatever their reasoning may be, it’s important that you sit down with them and have a meaningful conversation about the importance of putting the screen down. Muskoka Woods believes that summer camp is a transformative experience, giving kids the opportunity to have fun, grow in confidence and leave inspired to shape their world. For some youth, technology can be a barrier to reaching their true potential, discovering the beauty of nature, forming meaningful relationships, and getting the most out of their time at camp.

How to have the conversation

Explain to your child that they will be missing out on incredibly fun and life-changing experiences if they are glued to their device — both at camp and in daily life. Emphasize the diverse range of activities that will take up most of their time at camp, as well as the potential to make new and long-lasting friendships.

If you’re unsure about how to approach this subject with your child, you should listen to the Shaping Our World podcast episode featuring Jackie Robertson, a registered psychotherapist. In the episode, Jackie offers down-to-earth coaching strategies for parents, how to navigate online issues with your kids, and more.

If they are particularly anxious about a lack of communication from home, talk to them about Bunk1, the email service for guests at Muskoka Woods. While your child is at camp, you can send your child Bunk Notes to keep in touch. Bunk Notes are printed out and distributed to your child daily. Muskoka Woods also adds photos to private albums on the Bunk1 platform daily so you can check in and see how much fun your child is having at camp!

Most importantly: If you decide their device will be left at home, assure them that their phone will be kept safe and sound, and fully charged, waiting for their arrival home.

Muskoka Woods strongly recommends that all communication devices stay at home. However, if your family reaches a decision that your child will come to Muskoka Woods with a device, here is our cell phone policy:

If you are a parent of a WILD (6-8) or Venture (9-10) guest:

  • Please notify your child’s counsellor upon arrival if you have chosen to send your child to camp with a cell phone. We highly recommend that WILD and Venture guests do not bring phones with them to camp, however, guests will be able to use their phones to text/call home if needed, after dinner time, between 6:30 and 7:00p.m. If you would like to contact your child while they are at camp, please do so during this time.
  • The cell phone will be required to stay in the Yondr pouch, in your child’s luggage, in their cabin during daily activities and evening program.
  • We encourage you to bring a lock for your luggage if you are bringing a phone to camp.

If you are a parent of a Junior High (11-12) guest:

  • Guests will have access to their phones daily after activities end at 5 p.m. until evening program at 7 p.m.. outside of dinner time while they eat with their cabinmates.
  • Curfew for Jr. High guests is 10:00 p.m.
  • The cell phone will be required to stay in the Yondr pouch during daily activities and evening program. We recommend that guests leave it in their luggage, but they may carry it with them.
  • Cell phones will be put back into the Yondr pouches shortly for evening program until the next day.
  • We encourage you to bring a lock for your luggage if you are bringing a phone to camp.

If you are a parent of a Senior High (13-14), Crew (15-16) or CEO (15-17) guest:

  • Guests will have access to their phones daily after activities end at 5 p.m. until evening program and then again before curfew. Guests will not use their phones during dinner time as they eat with their cabinmates.
  • The cell phone will be required to stay in the Yondr pouch during daily activities and evening program. We recommend that guests leave it in their luggage, but they may carry it with them.
  • Cell phones will be put back into the Yondr pouches shortly before curfew, which is 10:30 p.m. for Senior High guests and 11 p.m. for Crew and CEO guests.
  • We encourage you to bring a lock for your luggage if you are bringing a phone to camp.

To learn more, visit the Muskoka Wood cell phone policy page.

This post was updated January 19, 2022. 

 

About the Author

Jamie Hunter lives in Dundas, Ont. with his wife, 10-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. Over the past 15+ years, he has contributed to a variety of national lifestyle and entertainment print publications and worked in corporate communications roles at Harbourfront Centre and the University of Toronto. A self-described amateur entomologist, wannabe ornithologist, and fair-weather angler, on weekends he can be found covered in dirt tending to his gardens.

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