The digital divide

Technology: You gotta love it. It allows Scouters to stay
connected and helps the BSA reach new audiences in interesting ways. Most
importantly, without technology this blog wouldn’t exist.

But when it comes to enjoying the outdoors, many packs,
troops, and crews choose to limit or ban most high-tech items.

This practice was documented in “Cut-Off Campers,” a recent
article in the Press of
Atlantic City
. The story starts like this:

“The woods around the Roosevelt Scout Reservation were
silent. No humming computers. No music. Not even the telltale clicking of a
cell phone texter. Just the chirping of crickets, the crackling of the campfire
and the occasional rustle of some nocturnal creature.”

The article goes on to discuss various practices Scouters
use when it comes to technology. It’s an interesting subject and one that Scouting magazine readers already have
weighed in on. In our November-December 2008 issue, we printed responses from
about controlling cell phone use. 

The healthy debate was
mainly between those who forbid any technological items in the outdoors and
those who want their Scouts to maintain some connection with family back home.

Chime In: What’s
your troop’s policy on the technology issue, and how did you come to that
decision? Let us know in the comment box below.


  1. Something I’ve blogged about because it is important.
    Adults carry cell phones, but nothing electronic is allowed for the Scouts. The adults are good about checking in at home, and the Scouts handle the world better without the tether to mom.
    At the same time, it is equally important for Scouter to be up to speed on the electronic world their Scouts live in.
    A 15 year old Scout doesn’t know a world without the Internet and 24X7 connectivity–if Scouters don’t know and understand this (and are able to “speak it”), they will be sorely out of touch.

  2. Troop 10, Stony Point, NY: NO electronic devices allowed on campouts or Scoutying events. First offense: device is confiscated until the campout or event is over. Second offense: the device becomes the property of teh Scoutmaster. We implemented this policy for several reasons:
    1. To avoid loss or breakage of costly devices;
    2. To concentrate on the purpose of the campout or event;
    3. To prevent SCouts from staying up late texting, playing video games or disrupting the other attendees with music;
    4. Adults carry cellphones or PDA’s and parents are provided with these numbers or e-mail addresses in the event emergency contact is required.
    Being “sorely out of touch” with the world-wide Web for the duration of the campout or event will not cause any irreparable harm. The absence of the electronic devices allows for a more effective Scouting experience (camaraderie, attention to duties while on an outing and appreciation of the natural surroundings to which we had gone to escape the pervasive influence of “electronic leashes”).

  3. In our Troop, all electronic devices that are not cell phones, are prohibited. We want the Scouts to develop face to face communication skills. These devices create an insular world devoid of human interface. Cell phones are an important tool insofar as being an “emotional crutch” for some Scouts, and an emergency services tool. Cell phones are held by the leaders, and used for the above mentioned reasons only.
    Dan Mooney
    Troop 29 Congers NY

  4. We are currently “no electronics” for all Scouts and “electronics out of sight” for all adults.
    Part of me wants to change it to, “If you want to carry it, and it’s not a safety issue or a disruption to others, then you can have it.” But you know what? There’s no national policy and beyond Cub Scouts the youth are supposed to be leading the show. So, if it’s not a safety issue or a disruption, it’s not “supposed” to be up to me.
    But then there’s the traditionalist in me … 🙂

  5. Only Scouters carry cell phones. One of us usually brings a laptop to consolidate pictures. Scouts need to enjoy the outdoors without being tethered to the outside world electronically.
    We allow scouts to have personal electronics for long (more then 3 hours) road trips, but they must stay in the vehicle when we arrive at our destination.
    On a backpacking trip in Florida a couple of years ago, one scout had hidden his cell phone in his pack. He fell behind (300 – 500 yards) and after we passed a small crest he lost sight of us. The SPL stayed back to wait for him, but the scout started to panic and called his father, an over-the-road truck driver, who was in Mass at the time and told his father that we left him behind on the trail.
    He soon caught up to the rest of us and that is when I got a call from the boy’s father. I assured him that his son was okay and that we wouldn’t leave someone behind. After I hung up, I asked the scout for his cell phone, which I carried for the rest of the trip.
    At the next meeting, we discussed the situation and came up with the troop’s electronics policy. He haven’t had a problem since.

  6. As a residential summer camp staff member, a youth member in the order of the arrow, and most importantly a scout in troop 32 I enjoy the campfire, the nature, and the animals I LOVE IT but also being a texting fiend the communication is always at my fingertips. As S.P.L. I implicated a limited-use policy, I used the technology to my advantage with putting all the contact information in for the parents and scouts in case of emergency, having addresses and directions to the closest hospital etc. etc. this should be how the technology is used. on the aspect of an iPod/mp3 device it is not needed, in a car ride I understand but not in a tent at any point in time! I hope all decisions made take in all points of view, remember scouting is for the youth if they arent happy its not worth it!

  7. I appreciated the available connectivity during my recent stay at summer camp (Owasippe Scout Reservation, Twin Lakes, MI). It was essential for me to check-in with my employer. Although I had to trek a mile or so to the Administration Building for the free wi-fi, I was grateful it was offered.

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