Are Helicopter Parents Ruining Summer Camp?

Summer camp is supposed to be an opportunity for children to get away from home and do something different from what they do every day. It's also supposed to be a welcome respite for parents with bored children underfoot in the summer. But modern communication devices (phones) have changed that. Kids are used to having their phones with them to play games, watch TV, and stay in touch with family and friends. Camps often have children hand in their phones, and they usually adjust pretty well when there's so many other things to do. Their parents are the ones having a hard time being out of touch. Barry Garst of Clemson University tells us what's going on.

"We started to hear from camp directors a number of years ago that parents were the most problematic areas of a camp experience," says Garst. Not weather, not water safety, not grizzly bears. Nope, it's parents who call daily demanding reports on their kids, who expect to hear from the camp director about every skinned knee.

Meg Barthel, the lead girls' counselor at Camp Echo, carries a device with Wi-Fi around camp. "I have to respond to the mothers who are used to this constant communication with their daughters," she says. How many messages a day? "Up to 100."

Garst says thanks to mobile devices, parents today are conditioned to hour-by-hour check-ins. "The No. 1 concern is the separation that parents feel, and the difficulty in accepting a different type of communication with their child when their child is at camp."

Hence, the phones buried in luggage, mailed to campers, or even, he says, stitched into a stuffed animal.

Summer camps report another difficulty is getting their college-age camp counselors to put away their phones, even if just for the time they are interacting with campers. And they also have helicopter parents. Read more on the modern problems at summer camp at NPR. 

(Image credit: Suharu Ogawa for NPR)


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