Kids Unplugged: Summer Camps Ban Electronics A decade ago, many summer camps nationwide instituted a no-tech policy. Technology has changed since then, and social media threatens to distract kids' attention more than ever. But while kids are kept from their gadgets, behind the scenes, technology is enhancing their safety.
NPR logo

Kids Unplugged: Summer Camps Ban Electronics

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Kids Unplugged: Summer Camps Ban Electronics

Kids Unplugged: Summer Camps Ban Electronics

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. A decade ago, many summer camps started instituting a no-tech policy - cell phones, pagers and electronic games were banned. Back then, Kaomi Goetz of member station WSHU reported on the ban. Well, now, we sent her back to camp to see what's changed.

KAOMI GOETZ, BYLINE: It was the start of summer in 2003 and Camp Manitou-Lin in Michigan had just started banning electronics. I went there and talked to some of the campers back then. Eleven-year-old Michael Lake of Grand Rapids isn't so sure he likes the new policy.

MICHAEL LAKE: I live on my Game Boy. When I get back home, then I'm going to need two packs of batteries.

GOETZ: Cut to 2013.




GOETZ: And the iPhone. Technology has dramatically changed, and yet, some things have stayed the same. Eleven-year-old Sarah Gold is at Camp Sloane. It's set on 270 acres in the foothills of the Berkshires in western Connecticut. There's a lake, towering trees and canvas tents held up by wooden poles. She says life is a lot different from Manhattan.

SARAH GOLD: So, you're not just like texting or playing little games on your phone or on your iPad. You can actually interact.

GOETZ: Camp Sloane also has a no-tech policy. Paul Bryant, who goes by the name Bear, is the camp's executive director. He says camp is about making human connections.

PAUL BRYANT: That's the whole point of coming here, anyway, that's the way we look at it. And it's hard to do that when you're staring at a screen, it's hard to do that when you got earphones in and you're not listening to people talk.

GOETZ: Still, they do find contraband from time to time. I asked one of the staffers to show me the cabinet where they keep the banned devices.

ADAM JANAWAY: Well, I've got two cell phones already, and here's the second one. I've got an iPod, as well.

GOETZ: The camp makes sure the kids stay busy with lots of activities, like mountain biking, sailing and fishing. But while gadgets are banned from camp, behind the scenes, it's a different story. Camp Sloane actually depends a lot on technology and computers. Its data is backed up on a cloud. They have a Facebook page.

Last year, the camp invested thousands of dollars in a high-tech underwater locator system to prevent drowning. A counselor shows a camper how to strap on the plastic band.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Put this on your head. Bring the floatie down. Pull it nice and tight.

GOETZ: An underwater antenna detects the headband using a frequency. Once underwater for 20 seconds, a light goes off onshore. Then, ten seconds later...


GOETZ: Camps are trying everything they can to attract campers and these tech-savvy touches help. At Camp Sloane, executive director Bryant says technology will be used to enhance safety and the experiences of campers, but that won't extend to cell phones or personal devices anytime soon. Nine-year-old Adrian Shirzadi of Providence, Rhode Island, is eating a meatball sandwich for lunch. He misses his gadgets, especially his iPad, but says camp is worth it.

ADRIAN SHIRZADI: It's worth it because you get to make new friends, explore nature and see a bunch of new animals like turtles.

GOETZ: He'll also be busy the next two weeks playing tennis and mountain biking, and he hopes, learning to build a fire. For NPR News, I'm Kaomi Goetz.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.