Parents have become accustomed to their children always being on their telephones, for better or for worse. On one hand, it can be a distraction from things such as school work or family time. On the other hand, it can be a crucial tool to communicate with each other when a parent and child aren’t together. But sleepaway summer camps are one of the only places left where children can unplug and enjoy what is right in front of them.
Dave Devey, director of Falcon Camp in Carrollton; Courtney Guzy, executive director at Hiram House Camp in Moreland Hills; and Liz Stevens, co-director of Camp Walden in Cheboygan, Mich., said writing letters is still a great and important way to communicate with family back home.
Stevens said that Camp Walden encourages their campers to send at least two letters per week to their families, partially so that parents know their child is safe.
“Certainly when you’re sending your child away to a place that you are not, you want to know that things are proceeding according to plan,” Stevens said. “That your child is safe, happy, and healthy. And when camp is communicating what’s going on at camp in general, and parents are able to see pictures and understand things are going as planned, it reduces a great amount of anxiety a parent might have.”
Whether camp lasts a few days or a few weeks, Guzy said that Hiram House Camp lets the campers decide how often they want to communicate home.
“It’s as often as they want to. So some kids want to write a letter a day, some kids don’t want to communicate at all,” Guzy said. “They just want to have a chance to have a break. So it’s really up to how much the kids want to have a chance to reach out back home. Sometimes the parents let us know ahead of time they sent their camper with letter writing stuff.”
Some camps like Falcon Camp not only discourage the use of technology to communicate with family back home, but they actively disallow it. The primary communication between camper and parent is by letter writing. Devey said this provides a good chance for campers to become more independent during their time at camp.
“That is a hard thing for parents,” Devey said. “But, also it’s an appropriate thing to do and an important part of being away at camp, growing and learning a little bit ... part of what we want children to be able to learn how to do is to be able to make a few simple decisions on their own without immediately picking up the phone and calling mom or dad ... most experienced camp directors will tell you that phone calls from parents create more homesickness than any single item in camp.”
On top of becoming more independent, Guzy also said that camp is a good opportunity for children to enjoy life without technology for a bit. And when children do communicate back home, writing letters is a bit more heartfelt.
“At least a part of what we believe at camp is, the summertime is really a chance for kids to unplug from technology,” Guzy said. “Especially nowadays, everything with COVID, the kids are hooked up to computers, their phones, their iPads 24 hours a day...There’s always something personal about getting a letter. Nowadays, you think of how special it is when you get a card from someone in the mail.”
While parents may be antsy about only hearing from their children a few times a week through letters, Stevens said the camp still communicates thoroughly with parents directly.
“Kids will still be writing, parents can still send emails,” Stevens said. “But I think the more important thing is the camp itself is very communicative with the parents, and the camp has a plan for how to communicate what’s going on with the parents. COVID year or non-COVID year, I think it’s important for camps to be open with parents about what’s happening.”