The Tech-Free Camp Experience

Runoia is one of America’s oldest tech-free camps still holding strongly to unplugging during the summer – even in the face of technological advances and encouragement to stay constantly ‘plugged in.’ We believe that it’s vital for our community to unplug each year. Read on about the phone addictions our kids are facing, the benefits of unplugging regularly and at camp, and some tips on how to prepare (whether you’re a parent, camper, or staff member) to be unplugged this summer.

No, it’s not just you – the science shows that post-pandemic, adolescent phone addictions are at an all-time high. That means that both camper and staff populations are struggling to let go of their technology. Forgetting about the harmful impacts of social media itself, the list of negative effects of phone addictions is a long one. Excessive screen time for youth can lead to:

  • heightened anxiety and depression
  • insomnia and poor sleep quality
  • diminished attention spans and short-term memory
  • reduced conversation quality
  • fatigue
  • lower grades
  • reading fewer books
  • reduced time outside and being physically active

Scientists say that the ideal screen-time limit for adolescents is about two hours per day, but the average actual use is up to nine. We clearly have some work to do!

Runoia is dedicated to a tech-free experience for both campers and staff – no phones, tablets, computers, even e-readers in Runoia cabins. Campers swiftly learn to communicate the old-school way, and in just a day or two, can be seen excitedly opening and writing letters at all hours of the day. We are dedicated to this tech-free policy because we’re dedicated to the development of our campers and staff, and simply can’t ignore the science. Tech-free camp is safer, more beneficial, and allows our community to spend all of that time connecting to each-other rather than the internet.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. We’ve done our research, and compiled a helpful list of benefits and guidance for unplugging this summer – or whenever!

The Benefits of ‘Unplugging’

  • Reduced anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Stronger personal relationships
  • Time to develop hobbies and passions
  • Increased focus
  • Increased physical activity
  • Increased mindfulness
  • Increased self-worth

How to Prepare to be ‘Unplugged’

  • Prepare and practice coping skills – have you ever noticed yourself reaching for your phone when you feel uncomfortable or have an unoccupied moment of time? Knowing that this crutch won’t be available during the summer, think about what else helps you in those moments. Luckily, we’ve already compiled a list to help you get started.
  • Practice at home – you don’t have to wait until camp to unplug. Practice by challenging yourself to:
    • Leave your phone at home for a day, or even just a part of the day. Can your phone stay home during your coffee run?
    • Set app limits for yourself or use an app to reduce screen-time in apps
    • Set phone-free times for your day – can you put your phone away for the first hour after you’ve woken up, and for two hours before bed?
    • Turn off screens during meals and other family or friend time
  • Commit to it regularly – outside of camp, can you schedule a handful of ‘digital detox’ days for yourself, your friends, or your family each year?

We’re certainly grateful for the positive impacts that technology and social media offers us – we get to share our lives and accomplishments and stay connected as a community all-year round. So many of our campers and staff discover us online and through social media, and we can’t deny how fun it is to see yourself on the Runoia Instagram or TikTok. That’s why Runoia thinks it’s so important to learn to live in harmony with technology – to be able to use it for all its benefits, but also know when and how to take a break.

If you’ve ever experienced a Runoia evening program – let’s say Miss Tacky, for example – where everyone is connected and plugged in to our community, then you know just how worthwhile it is to leave our phones behind. We know we could never miss our phones more than we miss our Runoia besties when we have to say goodbye.



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