Our youngest Boy Scouts were 3 years old when the first iPhone came out. They don’t remember a world without iThings.
Troops that absolutely forbid smartphones in Scouting — even confiscating them or locking them away — are fighting a losing battle.
That’s why units like Troop 96 of Grayslake, Ill., have developed a technology policy that’s realistic and effective. Scoutmaster Pat Klemens shared his troop’s policy with me and agreed to let me blog about it.
“In my mind, it’s no use to debate it any longer,” Klemens writes. “The devices are here to stay. I’ve had more than one Scout say that he wouldn’t go to camp without his phone. I know a lot of adults who may not say it, but certainly respond the same way.”
Klemens and his troop had an internal discussion about technology in Scouting about four years ago. They realized “there are an incredible number of logical comparisons between a pocketknife and a cellphone.” Such as:
- Both are tools.
- Both could be toys.
- Both can be used recklessly.
- Both can hurt people.
- Both can be highly useful.
- Both require training for proper use.
- Both can, at times, scare people.
- Neither is going away.
“We don’t ban knives, hand axes or gas lanterns,” Klemens writes. “We teach their use. Similarly, we don’t ban technology. We teach its use.”
So Troop 96 came up with a technology policy that uses the familiar 12 points of the Scout Law. It’s working. Since its implementation more than two years ago, “the problem simply doesn’t exist anymore.”
Troop 96 Technology Policy
1. Use the technology to build relationships with the troop, find useful information, communicate and share excitement about Scouting.
2. Updates to social sites using appropriate, (non-embarrassing), photos or clips can share and build excitement about Scouting.
3. Don’t let technology detract from the outdoor experience, the program experience, or the Scouting experience for the troop or patrol.
- A Scout is truthful with others online and is careful of the information shared.
- He does the right thing when sharing and makes sure to have permission to share the words or pictures of others.
- A Scout uses his phone or device in a way that adds to his troop or patrol.
- A loyal Scout is careful to post only appropriate photos or clips and would never want to embarrass others with his updates or communication.
- A loyal Scout would not use a phone to exclude some Scouts from the conversation, for example with secret messages.
- A Scout could use applications that can add to the outdoor experience, such as a star-map, first aid or GPS.
- A Scout should alert others to scams, cheats, and suspicious sites and point them to reliable sources of information. Encourage people to report bad online behavior.
- A Scout may use a phone to take appropriate photos of events or situations for the troop or for personal memories.
- A Scout could use his phone to assist someone else with information or access to communication.
- A Scout could use his phone to invite others to join Scouting or to remind his fellow Scouts of important events and activities.
- Ringers and alert messages should be muted — beeps, rings, and recorded music take away from the outdoor and Scout experience.
- A device should not be a distraction. Scouts should pay attention to the program and fellow Scouts. In a program or troop situation, a Scout should avoid checking his phone for incoming messages or emails, unless messages related to the program are expected. Consider using “airplane mode” and wait to check at designated free times.
- A courteous Scout does not interrupt a conversation with others to stop and check for inbound messages. The courteous Scout focuses his attention on his personal interactions, such as conversations in which he is engaged.
- A phone should not be used to insulate a Scout from the outdoors or others. For example, a Scout should not use headphones during a Scouting activity. During a Scout outing a phone should not be used for entertainment such as playing solo electronic games, idle web surfing, shopping, etc.
- A phone should not be used to play music or videos — for himself or for others — at an outdoor experience. Phone music at a campsite or campfire will take away from the outdoor experience for others.
- Not everyone can afford a smartphone. A Scout needs to be sensitive to others and avoid using his phone in a way that looks like boasting and makes other Scouts disappointed that they cannot afford such a device. This is no different from any other piece of gear.
- A Scout always treats people with respect while on social networks, playing games, talking, texting or in other digital activities.
- When using digital devices, a Scout follows the rules and examples set by parents, guardians, teachers, and Scout leaders.
- A Scout abides by the rules on websites, services, devices and games.
- A Scout is aware that different settings, events or locations will have different rules for use of electronics.
- A Scout uses games, messaging tools and social forums to build relationships with others while having fun.
- A Scout recognizes that his phone may run out of power, and learns to take measures to conserve power in his device such as by turning it off when not in use or by switching to “airplane mode” to conserve his battery.
- A Scout should not become overly reliant on his device. For example, a Scout should be ready with his map and compass rather than rely on his smartphone GPS.
- A Scout is a smart consumer. He knows his voice, text, and data plans and uses them wisely, careful not to run up charges on apps and sites.
- The Scout should not normally be calling home, or sending text messages back and forth with home. If the Scout thinks there is an urgent need to contact home, he should consult an adult leader first.
- Parents need to understand and agree that they are normally not to send messages or call their Scout while he is out with the program. Communication from home should be routed through an adult leader.
- Stand up for what is right. Do not participate in mocking or bullying others, even if others are doing it. Report suspected abuse to a trusted adult, like a parent or leader or call 911 as appropriate.
- A Scout uses clean language and only discusses appropriate topics when using digital devices to communicate with others.
- A Scout needs to take responsibility and take care of his device against damage from dirt, drops, water or other hazards. He may want to keep it carefully packed away against damage. He keeps his gear in good, working order.
- A Scout respects the feelings of other people and would never use digital devices to spread irreverent ideas.
BSA Cyber Chip: Scouts learn more about the appropriate use of technology when they earn the BSA Cyber Chip.
Smartphones in Scouting: BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive Gary Butler offers his excellent take on the subject.
Photo from BSA Flickr. Copyright Boy Scouts of America 2013.