If your middle-school aged kids need something to do to keep busy before school starts, there's a free camp working to help kids unplug - and stay safe in a digital world.
It's a relatively new camp, set for Aug. 18 through Aug. 20 at the Camp Hanover site.
This is only its second year, but the camp seems to be working. Everyone has some good old-fashioned fun.
Evan Hughes is a Volunteer Coordinator at Camp Unplugged, and also a rising college student. He says the rules here are simple: "No cell phones, no iPods. You're meeting people, playing kick the can, all things you wouldn't be doing when you have your cell phone."
"In an effort to empower kids to be kids again,” added Douglas Ix, President of Tad's Kids, the organization behind the camp. “We saw a need for resources toward the onslaught of digital content now barraging our children."
For context, parents fill out an application about how much screen time their kids are getting a day - doing things like gaming, email, and social media.
"Two to three to four hours a day!" said Hughes.
The camp is completely free, full of all the traditional camp activities and bunk sleeping you'd expect. But it also has four group sessions on social media safety, hosted in part by counselors, police officers, and other safety leaders.
"They come in and talk about being smart online and doing all of those things,” said Hughes. “But at the same time, having a great time at camp. Everybody is unplugged. Not just the campers, the volunteers. Everybody is here to have an unplugged experience. It's a great weekend together."
Douglas Ix helps lead the camp, but as a parent, he finds the lessons learned here particularly important, because he knows he can't always be there.
"A parent myself, I'm not always aware of all the content that's hitting my children,” said Ix. “So, I think it's important to see them turn it off. To go outside, and to make friends the old fashioned way face-to-face."
...With no screen, snap, tweet, post, or email to get in the way.
The camp is free and open to middle school students across RVA.
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