Technology and Kingswood

Our Philosophy and an Exciting Announcement

By Director Rob Wipfler

Part One

“What is your electronics policy?”

This was the most frequent question that parents asked us last year at camp fairs and open houses, and it was invariably posed as soon as conversation drifted into specifics about daily life at Kingswood. Historically not a front burner issue or a regularly fielded question, it has become one that all potential camp parents seem to ask us. Overwhelmingly, parental consensus favors less electronic gear in the hands of their kids while they are at camp.

The amount of time that children are spending in front of screens- at the expense of face-to-face interactions and time spent outdoors- is something that is on the minds of parents, educators, and anyone who genuinely cares about the future of the next generation of young adults in our society. We all know intuitively (and more and more studies are confirming) that too much time spent on electronic gadgets is detrimental to the health and development of children.

For example, a recent study out of UCLA concludes that screen time may be inhibiting children’s ability to distinguish emotion: the study found that sixth-graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions, and computers. That’s frightening stuff considering that many children (and adults) consider their smartphone to be a literal appendage of their body.

How will the first generation to grow up in this “plugged-in age” turn out as adults? Will they lack empathy or social skills? Will they care about nature and the environment- or even going outside? We don’t know the answers to these questions, though my personal hunch from working with today’s kids is that they will, for the most part, turn out quite well. Most families in our community strive to find a proper balance between making media part of their lives, but in a planned, sensible way. However, given the increasing scientific evidence suggesting that too much time spent inside in front of a screen can be harmful, we feel confident in our philosophy and policy regarding electronics described below.

“So what IS Kingswood’s electronics policy?” you ask.

The answer is, and will continue to be, that we do not allow electronic devices at camp. More and more this statement has been greeted with a “Thank goodness!” type response from parents. True, we do make an exception for stand-alone music players that do not have screens, and for boys who need to use a tablet to complete summer reading assignments. We stand by the idea that camp is a place to unplug, get outside and get active, and perhaps most importantly, experience the richness and opportunity to develop meaningful and long-lasting friendships afforded by being a member of our multi-generational community. This is what camp is all about.

Part Two

At the same time that we insist that the Kingswood experience for the campers remain “unplugged”, we also need to remember to embrace technologies that work to our advantage. In the very near future, we will be unveiling our improved new website. While the content is largely the same, we hope you agree with us that it has a more modern, visually appealing, and user-friendly feel to it. In typical Kingswood style, it was mostly a homemade job by the Wipfler family, with help from our IT consultant, Laurence.

Finally, and perhaps the biggest news item of this offseason, is the fact that we are now partnered with CampMinder, a company that provides camp management, databasing, and communication software. We have done a great deal of research and are very impressed with their system. CampMinder will handle camper applications, medical records, travel plans to and from camp, and much more.

So why care about or embrace this change?

First of all, we hope that you agree with us that the intelligent use of technology can actually enhance the traditional nature of camp. We will be able to provide a high degree of personal attention to each family and camper, and you will save time and energy on the paperwork that you have to do too. Another benefit is that we will be able to spend less time in the office and more time where we want to be- supervising and interacting with your children. We’ll be able to target group emails more strategically with information pertinent to you. Finally, we are confident that because of this particular technology, the human element or “mom and pop” feel of Kingswood can only be strengthened.

Your experience with CampMinder will be called CampInTouch. We will be sending an email with information on how to login and set up your account. The CampInTouch system is merged with our website, so all the camper applications, inquiries, staff applications, and forms will be found within this new system. Once you get your account going, you’ll soon see some of the many perks- you’ll be able to check your balance, print out statements, update your contact information, etc. all in one convenient location.

We are excited to unveil both the new website as well as the CampInTouch system. It will be important to remember that, no matter how modern our office becomes, the experience for the campers will remain the same as it has been for the past 30 years: “unplugged”, outdoors, active, and full of social interactions and friendships that will last a lifetime.