Edited by Robert W. Peterson
Illustration by Bill Basso
Scoutmaster D.S.J. says his Scouts want to listen to Walkmans and play with Game Boys during their free time on camp-outs. He doesn't like the idea and asked for other opinions. With rare unanimity and varying degrees of vehemence, our readers agree with D.S.J.
During the 1960s I learned a lesson that applies to this question from my old Scoutmaster, Bill Showacre, a World War II veteran who loved discipline and formality at troop events. He seldom told us what we could not do, because he knew the day was not long enough to list them all, and he understood the forbidden fruit theory. And he made sure that there were enough activities scheduled so that we had little time to listen to the nine-volt transistor radios that were permitted at Scouting events.
Well-planned programs leave little time for distractions like Game Boys and other electronic gadgets.
Don't be afraid to say, "No!" and don't back away from it. Boys of Scout age need someone to set guidelines for them, and they will respect you for standing by your convictions. My rule has always been that if I see or hear an electronic gadget on camp-outs, it's mine until we return home.
As a trade-off for this policy, our troop has an annual "camp-in" for the specific purpose of playing computer games, watching movies, etc.
Troop Committee Chairman J.P
Iowa City, Iowa
We don't allow any electronics in the campsite. We do permit them in vehicles on long tripsanything over a couple of hoursbut the gadgets stay in the car when we arrive. If any are smuggled in, we confiscate them, usually after a warning, and give them back on our way home.
I totally agree that electronic devices should be banned from camp-outs. Kids spend enough time with these forms of entertainment at home and should concentrate on the great outdoors. If Scouts have free time on camp-outs, it could be spent working on advancement or just learning about the outdoors.
Former Den Leader J.H.
Our troop has never allowed Scoutsor adult leadersto bring CD players, radios, or hand-held video games on camp-outs. The prohibition also applies while traveling to camp.
We have three reasons. First, we intend to provide the Scouts an outing rich in new experiences. If a Scout is playing a Game Boy, he will be missing important experiences. For example, often a deer will be seen for only a fleeting moment. And how can the Scout begin to learn the calls of birds if his ears are filled with the howling of a rock star?
Second, leaders become annoyed at having to repeat instructions for Scouts wearing headsets. Finally, there is much potential for damage to delicate electronic equipment on camp-outs.
This should not even be an issue in a Scout troop. It has been our policy that Walkmans, Game Boys, and radios are not allowed on any camp-out. If a boy does bring one and it is seen by an adult or boy leader, it is confiscated and returned to the Scout's parents or guardian back home.
The senior patrol leader will explain to the Scout the reason for the policy. If the boy brings gadgets a second and third time, he is disciplined.
Our troop specifically excludes electronic games and players on camp-outs. If a Scout asks why, he is told that we go on camp-outs to do Scout things and thus listening to or playing with electronic gadgets should not be done. We also immediately come up with one of those "Scout things" that needs doing right away to reinforce the lesson.
Our real reason? We use the patrol method, which depends on the bonding of Scouts in the patrol as they work together and form friendships. The use of electronic toys is a largely solitary activity with no interaction between Scouts.
Developing social skills is an important step on the way to adulthood, and solitary activities do not exercise these skills.
Troop Committee Chair P.M.
On every camp-out permission slip and equipment list in our troop, there is the following statement: "No Personal Radios, TVs, CD Players, or Video Games Are Allowed at Camp." Every new Scout is aware of it. The policy applies to adult leaders, too.
We bring in one radio, and that is used only to check the weather. On a camping event, you should be enjoying nature, not in your tent playing the same video games you play at home. If we have free time at camp, we organize games such as flag football or volleyball. The troop also has board games such as chess and checkers and decks of cards for use at night and on rainy days.
Both the Scouts and their parents are in full support of our policy.
Ecorse, Mich. S
Our troop used to have the same problem, with arguments about taking electronic toys, including laptop computers and cell phones, to camp. The leaders said, "No," but the boys, and some adults, took them anyway.
One year several electronic toys were stolen from our campsite. We are now very directno such toys go on hikes, camp-outs, or long-term campsand the parents support us. Experience has shown that such things will be lost, broken, or stolen.
If you can't afford to lose it or have it broken or stolen, leave it at home. This applies not only to electronic toys but to any other piece of equipment.
Former Scoutmaster D.C.B. Jr.
Our troop has a policy that no electronic devices are allowed at any troop activity, even while driving to and from the event. However, each vehicle has a citizens band radio, and the Scouts are encouraged to interact with other Scouts in their own and other vehicles during the drive.
During camp or other activity, our policy permits no devices at all. If we find a boy using a device, we ask him to put it away. If the boy persists, the Scoutmaster will take the device until we return home.
My son's Scoutmaster does not allow Walkmans and Game Boys on camp-outs either. Following are the reasons.
First, such toys are expensive and are easily broken or stolen. Second, the boys fight over the use of them. Third, they are not part of the Scout uniform or program. The toys don't teach boys the fine qualities of being a good Scout. Go back to the Scout Oath, Law, motto, slogan, and Outdoor Code, and ask yourself if Walkmans and Game Boys teach any of the Scout qualities.
Troop Committee Member S.L.N.
I was a Scout in the late 1950s and early 60s, and I have very fond memories of sitting around the campfire and singing songs. We had some great times!
Along came the transistor radio, and things started to change. Now kids hate to sing.
I guess it's because they sit in front of the TV or computer at home and no longer know how to amuse themselves without something electronic. This is why I ban all electronic gadgets at outdoor activities and den and pack meetings. Boys need to develop interpersonal skills with each other, not with machines.
Webelos Den Leader N.D.
I do not allow them. Period. When personal electronic equipment first came out, Scouts brought them to summer camp. Playing transistor radios disturbed others, or, if earphones were used, the Scouts did not hear commands to assemble. Game Boys create the same kinds of problems.
Without electronic toys, the Scouts play games that teach the attributes of friendship and working together during their free time or work on advancement or do other constructive things.
San Francisco, Calif.
Our troop forbids all electronic games, all audio equipment, Pokemon and similar cards, etc. As we put it, "The only item permissible that runs on batteries is a flashlight."
We give two reasons for the policy: (1) if you cannot survive in the outdoors without these items, you probably should stay home; (2) if you expect adults to give up free time to take you into the "wilderness," we ask that you give yourself a chance to listen to the birds, the rippling brooks, and the wind in the woods.
Our troop members are clearly aware that no electric- or battery-powered games, stereos, or radios are permitted on troop camping events, whether weekend or weeklong. End of discussion!
Camping activities are opportunities to learn new things, experience new things, and strengthen skills. (And don't give me the "keeping in touch with local and world events while isolated in the wilderness" bit.)
Troop Committee Chairman J.W.
Like most teen-age boys, our Scouts love their Walkmans, Game Boys, and other electronic gadgets. Our rule is that they are allowed to listen and play with them on the drive to and from the outing, as long as it is not distracting the driver.
Once we arrive at our destination, the devices have to be left in the car for the weekend. If a Scout decides that he can't live without his gadget for the weekend, an adult leader confiscates it. It is returned to the Scout at the next troop meeting.
Assistant Scoutmaster D.S.
As a former Scoutmaster, business owner, and as a parent of grown children, I think there is a word that must be learned. That word is no. In the permissive attitudes of today, the word no has been forgotten.
Any adult should be able to use common sense and decide that a Scouting event can do without radios and other electronic gadgets. Just be sure there are enough Scouting activities to keep the Scouts busy.
District Committee Member R.L.M.
Rock Island, Ill.
Electronic devices have no place on a camp-out. Explain to the Scouts that a big part of the outdoor experience is using their senses to enjoy nature.
Electronic devices isolate Scouts from the group when activities that promote teamwork should be encourage. When time alone is needed, promote reading, alone or in a group. It expands the mind and exposes the boys to new ideas. Another good activity is starting a journal of their Scouting experiences. Years later they will enjoy reflecting on it.
Troop Committee Member P.L.M.
Port Hueneme, Calif.
Camp-outs are for experiencing the pleasures of cooking, starting a campfire, and running and stomping through the woods. Camp-outs are for learning to appreciate the outdoor environment, where a boy doesn't have to be overly concerned about getting dirty.
Therefore, our troop prohibits radios, Game Boys, and cassette and CD players. If a boys wishes to bring such items, we tell him to stay home and enjoy them, for we are going camping, hiking, fishing, and canoeing.
Keep your camping trips basic. Provide plenty of outdoor activities.
I think that if you are going camping, you should do Scout activities. Playing Game Boy is not going to help Scouts in life or in Scouting.
Star Scout C.F.
My sons would like to take electronic games on camp-outs, but I do not allow it. I feel the reason for going on camp-outs is to get away from the everyday things, especially the fast-paced things. It is a time to relax during free time and just be at peace, not playing electronic games.
May-June 2000 Table of Contents
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