At Camp Interlaken JCC, phones get charged on the last night

It’s a question every camp today must answer. How should technology be managed?

In prior coverage, we reported on rules for cell phone and electronics use at different camps. Now, we take a look at how those rules are employed at the Steve and Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC, an overnight Jewish summer camp for third through tenth grade children.

At Camp Interlaken, the rules for cell phones are simple: campers are not allowed to have them. For those who bring them, the devices are held in a safe for the duration of their time at camp. “On the very last night of camp, we charge all of them,” said camp director Toni Davison Levenberg. “There are about 60 phones charging. We send them home on their bus, and as soon as the bus arrives at its destination, they are handed their phone.”

While they cannot utilize a cell phone, campers are allowed to use old school screen-free music players, such as an iPod Shuffle.

The camp does not currently offer Internet access for campers. “But that doesn’t mean there won’t be [someday],” noted Levenberg. “We do have a video editing program, where they’re sitting with a staff member working on editing a video, but they’re not on the Internet.”

To communicate with their families, campers can write and receive letters the old-fashioned way, through the postal service. Alternately, parents can send an email to the camp. Those messages are printed out and distributed to campers along with the regular mail. If parents request a response to their email, the camper is given a blank form with a bar code on it for tracking purposes. The camper hand writes their response on the sheet, and it gets scanned and emailed to the parents as a PDF attachment.

Located in Eagle River, Wisconsin, Camp Interlaken was founded in 1966. The camp’s policies regarding electronics and Internet use were implemented in 2013. Prior to that time, campers were allowed to bring handheld video games, such as a Nintendo DS.

That rule was eliminated, says Levenberg, because it was unfair for those without, occasionally led to conflicts, and the camp wanted to ensure that campers would not be exposed to age-inappropriate materials.

Staffers can use smartphones and other electronics but it must be done in private, out of sight from campers. “If I see it in camp, I take it,” Levenberg said.

The rules on technology have gone over well with the campers. “It’s amazing. It’s great,” said Levenberg.

“They are so happy to have a break from the stresses of technology. Sure, there’s a little bit of a detox in the beginning. [But] they are so happy to be in camp, and so happy to be with their friends, that they do not miss it.”