Cellphones at overnight camp

As parents and campers start to look towards their overnight trip with us this summer, the question of “can I pack my cellphone?” often comes up. With the growing prevalence of campers having cellphones and wanting to bring them on their overnight trip, we’d like to talk about why we do not permit cellphones on overnight trips.

First, a clarification: your child is more than welcome to bring an electronic device, including a cellphone, on the bus with them for entertainment. When we talk about cellphones at camp, we’re talking about cellphone use during the length of the trip: from arrival to departure. Cellphones are not permitted from the moment the camper arrives to when they leave, and we ask for the parent’s support in reinforcing this policy.

“Why are cellphones forbidden?”

The separation from technology elevates the overnight program, because campers can be fully present in the experience: interacting and developing friendships with one another and appreciating the outdoor activities we participate in throughout the trip. It also removes the risk of losing or damaging the costly device.

“What will happen if my child brings a device for the bus ride?”

At the start of the trip, campers are asked to be honest about the devices they have on them and to turn the devices in. The devices are all kept under lock and key for the duration of the trip with the Chef de Mission and are returned when the group leaves.

“But my child wants to take pictures of their trip”

Fantastic! Pictures are a great way to document memories and look back on the friends you made later. Why not get a disposable camera? They’re a flash from the past but still available for purchase. Plus, not knowing what your pictures will look like until they’re developed creates so much excitement! Our staff also document the trip through pictures and videos available on Facebook and Instagram. If your child wants to bring their cellphone to take pictures, they simply need to remove their SIM card. Please note that there is no wifi at our overnight sites!

“I’d like to hear from my child nightly to know they are okay.”

On our overnight trips, we try to instill and develop a sense of independence and autonomy. We want the children to develop their problem solving skills and to take their own personal steps into resolving situations that they encountered. When they can’t call home, they know that they are in charge of their own actions and finding solutions to their problems, instead of having mom or dad solve their problem for them.

“What if my child gets homesick? Calling home will make them feel better.”

We can appreciate your worry about your camper getting homesick and spending time away from home. This is the case for many of our overnight trip participants, and we spend a good amount of time on the first day addressing their concerns: we familiarize them with their cabins and common areas we’ll be using to help them feel safe and secure in their environment. We’ll also lead a number  of get-to-know-you games, so that campers get to know one another right off the bat. We also almost immediately share a meal together, which is one of the fastest way to make friends and overcome shyness often felt at the start of the trip. We are also very intentional about the scheduling of activities, ensuring that each day is filled and so their focus is kept on having fun, while not overwhelming them with too much all at once. We find that all of this, on top of the individualized support our staff provide in overcoming anxiety and homesickness while away from home, greatly deter most campers’ desire to call home. In fact, we work with campers to not call home. Research has shown that calling home, in fact, worsens cases of homesickness because campers are reminded of the distance between them and home, and instead they leave the phone call more upset than before. Resisting the urge to call home is a part of overcoming homesickness and ultimately developing the independence we try to foster throughout the trip!

“I’m not comfortable with my child not having a cellphone”

We have faced situations in the past where, despite our policy, parents have chosen to still send a cellphone with their child. While we respect your authority as the parent, this action puts the camper in a difficult situation. At the start of each trip all campers are asked specifically if they had a cell phone with them. In an effort to protect themselves and their parent, the camper will inevitably answer “no” and will go to any measure possible to hide their cellphone. On our overnight trips, we try to instill and develop a sense of independence and autonomy. We want the children to develop their problem solving skills and to take their own personal steps into resolving situations that they encountered. Most importantly, we try to help them develop good character. This situation forced the campers to blatantly lie in response to a direct question and continue to attempt to deceive our staff afterwards – quite the opposite to what we are trying to achieve.

We know that an overnight trip is a big step for all family members – family pets are even known to be grumpy when their favourite human leaves for a few days! – but please know that your child’s physical and emotional safety is our utmost concern. Emergency contact information is always provided should you need to be in touch with our counsellors and we have your contact information should we need to reach you. Overnight trips are that much more fun when the camper comes racing home and spends dinner time sharing their stories and adventures with the family, because they haven’t spoken to them every day. We even have a blog for each overnight trip (the link will be provided in the Parent Handbook) with anecdotes you can use as a conversation starter once your child comes home. Overnight camp is a magical time for all and we look forward to working with you to achieve this goal!


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