First, let me say congratulations to Alabama on their "national" title, or perhaps should I say SEC Title game redux. As predicted, it was a boring game (at least for me) that the media tried to make something of this morning....."A decisive victory..." A bunch of field goals and one touchdown......bleh. The proof is in the numbers, this was the least watched BCS championship game ever which just goes to show how meaningless this mathematical model of ranking is. Time to tighten the belt, lose some bowl games and make the remaining ones worth watching instead of just overwhelming us with more. OK, enough, let's move on.
I was taking the light rail out to SeaTac airport some time ago (don't roll your eyes, I take public transportation every now and then) and was doing some work on my smart phone when I looked up and took in my surroundings. There were about 20 other people in my particular car section and each one of them had their faces buried into their smart phone or i-pad as well. It didn't seem that long ago that if I took a bus or a train, I would spend most of my time trying not to look at other people and focus on the passing scenery, even if the scenery was nothing but dilapidated houses. Today, we have so many electronics that consume our time and interest. From i-pods, to i-pads and i-phones we are overwhelmed with digital distractions. When I travel, it is almost rare for me to see anyone read a book in print. Usually they are reading from a kindle, i-pad or a lap top. Now don't get me wrong, I think some of these new innovations are great. Since getting my own i-phone I have found that I no longer need to carry my lap top with me when I go on short trips, I can do just about everything from my phone. The amount of information that I can get through numerous applications is fantastic. Everything from finding a good place to eat, movie times, sports schedules, the betting line......everything can be found through my "smart" phone. I find myself easily distracted for almost an hour at a time. Sometimes when I look at it or use it to text someone, some of my friends say, "oh here we go again, I guess that phone is better company than me...." There is some truth to that as I find myself in the same position when I am talking to someone who returns the conversation while looking and typing on their phone. You feel like saying.."hey, up here." Despite the benefits of a smart phone, too much of anything is never good. I know some people that have so many applications that there is no way they could use all of them if they spent a year doing it.
This gadgetry is slowly making its way into camp life. For years we have had staff members first bring TVs, then VCRs, then CDs, then computers and lap tops, and now we have these phones. Years ago we began restricting what could be brought up as we found certain things to be distracting. When video games became the rage decades ago, we would find many of our staff members missing only to be found holed up in their cabins playing a game with others. We also began noticing more "theft" which was actually people "borrowing" someones elses game for awhile. Now we have a surge of these smart phones. We have restricted this as well by allowing our staff to have them, but the phones never leave the room during the week of camp. If a staff member wanted to use his phone, he would have to do it on his own time. I have no doubt that staff member have snuck them out and used them clandestinely but the good news is that I don't see them walking around with their heads buried in their phones. What I am seeing is that more and more scouts are walking around with their noses buried into their phones.
Every year scoutmasters have asked us to extend our wireless service to involve both sides of camp and points in between. We have been resistant to this for many reasons but the main reason for us not to do this is that we are not going to encourage a behavior that distracts one from their purpose at camp. For a scoutmaster that is tending to his troop and making sure that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing......not working on their computer or phone. If the scoutmaster needs to check e-mail or do a little work from camp, then they can come to the office for a short period of time and do that there.....keep it out of the campsites, that is where scouting is happening.
There is a time and place for everything and scout camp is not the time or place for gadgets...particularly for scouts having gadgets. If I were a scoutmaster once again, I would ban scouts from having cell phones with them during outings (they will never get lost, broke or "stolen") and make sure all the parents had my cell phone number if they needed to get a hold of their child. If I can get the staff to live without carrying a phone around with them, you should be able to control a young scout in a similar manner. If you can't, don't worry....some day there will be an app for that.