Let me take you back to 1997 (over twenty years ago, gasp!). A new internet chat platform called “AOL Instant Messenger” was just released. And I, like the early adopter that I still am today, was quick to sign on. I will not reveal my screen name because it was simply too embarrassing!
Now after a stressful day of middle school social interactions, when I got home, I would sign on to our family’s desktop computer (in the basement) and chat with my friends. It was phenomenal. And horrible.
While home used to be an escape from friends and drama, now, thanks to technology, I brought those friends and their problems home with me. Fights were more dramatic because you couldn’t understand tone (we didn’t have emojis!), you could shade someone with a carefully crafted away message, and you just plain wasted time.
I was spared by dinner, extracurricular activities, homework, and the fact that our family of five shared this one computer on dial-up internet.
Kids today are not so lucky. They carry on their person the ability to chat with everyone and access all manner of information at all times. There is no limit to their access. There is no limit to the damage this may have.
Camp truly does provide one of the last places where kids are given a break from their phones. At Camp Cedarbrook, we are blessed to not have any cell phone service. There is no option and no temptation to even try!
And kids need this break. They need the opportunity to turn off notifications and disconnect from the constant information and chatter.
They need to share a meal with their cabin mates and not have phones on the table. They need to understand the consequences of their words and have tough conversations face-to-face. They need to get ready in the morning without caring about their hair. They need to experience the beauty of God’s creation and not worry about Instagramming it. And most of all, they need the space and silence to hear God’s voice.
We have always known the power of camp to change lives by getting young people away from home and providing them with an independent experience, but now we have the added effect of separating kids from their phones. And what a great impact we can have!
I’m excited that Camp Cedarbrook continues to provide a safe space away from phones where girls can explore who they are in Christ. I’m thankful that parents are still willing to do something unconventional, like being separated from their daughter for a week (or more!) with no texting or phone access.
I’m praying for the campers and staff who will join us this summer. I can’t wait to meet you in person and talk to you face-to-face.
Amy “Ellie” Culhane is the Director of Camp Cedarbrook in the Adirondacks. She started as a Pathfinder camper and finished Camper-in-Leadership Training in 2002. When she’s not at camp, she lives with her husband and son in Illinois.
Want to know more about living screen-free? Read this post by former camper (and now staff member!) Emerald “Clarke” Geiger.