By Loui Dobin, Director of Greene Family Camp
Camp is the Shabbat of the year. The GFC community during the summer is a time out in its best sense. It’s an opportunity to live in a different way, a way that makes our campers and staff even better people the rest of the year. At its best, GFC is that annual “Shabbat.”
One of the ways in which camp is different is that we spend our time together with one another. Outside of camp, we are distracted by the need to stay electronically connected: the escape into a video game, the instant availability of a movie or a video clip. When we bring that wired world into camp, we have that much less time to spend really connected: to those who make up our camp, our unit, and our bunk. If Greene is truly going to remain a world apart for 2-3 weeks, leaving our electronics at home has to be part of the plan.
Campers have never been allowed to bring cell phones and laptops to camp. There are reasons aplenty, and most revolve around the fact that the majority of camper communication “home” with these devices is not to parents and families, but to friends and acquaintances. Laptops, also communication devices, would take up so much of our campers’ time and attention that they might as well stay home and attend virtual camp.
Because of the tremendous strides in gadgetry, laptops exist now as tablets and e-readers. There are no laptops or e-readers on the market that don’t have either cellular or wifi connectivity. When packing for camp, we would rather you use some of that valuable duffle bag space with a couple of books for the summer.
One of the fastest growing segments in technology these days is the field of gaming. And video games brought to camp have become the fastest growing cause of stress and tension among bunkmates and their staff. They create a community of “haves” and “have-nots,” something completely against our camp mission and purpose. They become a magnet for campers and suck up all the energy in the bunk during the times when they are allowed. It’s all too easy for campers to isolate themselves on their beds playing their virtual games, rather than playing and getting to know their bunkmates.
This summer, just about all the technology that you will need will be a simple mp3 player or disc player (no touch screen or connectivity) and a camera (digital or film).
We believe that life without cell phones, video games, and computers is possible for children. When you say it out loud, you really have to hope that it is true. At camp, it can be.
Today we are introducing our new GFC Electronics Policy. We have spoken to many campers and parents about the policy; we have read our post-summer camp evaluations that mention the need for it; and our Camp Committee has weighed in. Current camp families will be receiving this in an email, and you will also see it in our Family Guide. If you have any questions about the policy feel free to email me. We recommend that this summer your child powers down, unplugs, and takes what we’re certain is a well-needed break from the world of electronics.