Helicopter Parents Crash Summer Camp

 

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When my kids went to summer camp.

I’ve written about how helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace with their millennials here. Now, I’ve learned that parents are finding ways to hover over their kids’ summer camp experience, too.

In an NPR article called “Are Helicopter Parents Ruining Summer Camp?” by
Anya Kamanetz, I learned that helicopter parents often ignore summer camps “no cell phone” rules by hiding their kids’ phones when they pack for them.

“Barry 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.’ Garst studies youth development at Clemson University, with a focus on out-of-school learning.

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

The research on overparenting, says Garst, shows that when parents behave this way, children’s developing independence can be stunted. The parents are telegraphing that they don’t think kids can get through tough moments on their own, and kids pick up on that attitude. ‘Children are not really learning how to problem-solve.’

Leslie Conrad and Dan Mathews agree. (Conrad is the director of Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton,  S.C., and Mathews is the head of Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, Ga.) Both say their young adult staff members have helicopter parents as well, who also expect to be in constant contact. Last year, Mathews says, he got four or five phone calls from parents of staff members: ‘I can’t reach my child, they haven’t texted yet to say that they’re safe, they don’t like their cabin assignment, another staff member isn’t pulling their weight …’ One parent complained about the poor cellphone reception in the Georgia woods.

Summer vacation is a time of growth and change. Understanding the relationship between tech overdependence and parent-child interdependence may be key to untangling it, so kids can fly free.”

I remember when my kids went away to their first camp. There was a “no cell phone rule,” too at swim camp at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. They didn’t own a cell phones then, so it was not an issue. I did want to check up on them, and the camp instructions said we could send them with a prepaid phone card that they could use at the pay phone outside the dorms. Unfortunately for me, my kids never used the cards. “I didn’t know how to use it,” one child said. The other told me, ”I didn’t want to stand outside in the dark where the pay phones are and I only had time to call at night.”

We all survived one week without talking on the phone. I don’t know if we would today. My kids call quite a bit and I do the same. We’re much more dependent upon cell phones now. I was actually finding myself getting annoyed with so many calls yesterday from my kids. My husband and I were trying to watch a movie and we got two calls from one child. Then as soon as we hung up and started the movie, the second child called. Those weren’t the only calls from them that day–I had lost track of the previous calls. I honestly don’t think my kids realize that I sometimes have things to do or can have fun without them.

Here’s a tip from a website called Common Sense that addresses kids and the media and technology:

“Dear Mom, Don’t Pack My Phone for Camp” By Regan McMahon
“Let’s be honest: sending kids to camp with a cell phone is probably more for you than them. Here’s how to cut your cord.

“When your kid’s summer camp tells you to just pack the essentials — swim suit, sunscreen, sleeping bag — a cell phone is usually not on the list. In fact, it’s generally on the “What Not to Bring” list. But for parents, staying in touch with our kids feels essential, and some find it’s not so easy to break the habit.

“If the kids can unplug, why can’t we? Since we can all admit the cell phone is more for us than for them (kids aren’t the only ones with camp jitters), here are some tried and tested tips from recovering camp moms. You will get through it.”

Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

When your kids go to summer camp, how do you communicate with them? Or, do you let them experience camp without talking to you daily?

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My kids today.

 

 

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