Technology-free camp for teens looks to expand

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - Kids and technology is a topic of hot discussion - how much is too much time on a phone or iPad or computer? How do we keep our kids safe on the internet?

Even First Lady Melania Trump is taking on cyber bullying, launching a campaign this week called "Be Best" that focus on concerns about the youth, including social media usage.

One local group is reminding kids what it's like to live without technology, and they're looking for help.

Camp Unplugged is a good old-fashioned classic summer camp that includes "swimming, ropes courses, bon fires, camp songs," said Douglas Ix, president of the Board of Directors of Tad's Kids. "Basically interaction face-to-face with your peers."

There's no technology - children hand over their phones as they begin Camp Unplugged.

"You'd be surprised the anxiety they have going into these camps, giving up their phones," said Ix.

The results are pretty special.

"I saw a boy catch his first fish, and he was just 14," said Meghan Mack, president-elect of the Board of Tad's Kids. "And it was just exciting to watch him be thrilled and reeling it in and holding it."

The entire focus of the camp is forming relationships and talking about real problems facing real kids.

The camp is free to participants and is largely supported by donations.

The camp, hosted at Camp Hanover, started with middle schoolers, but the demand has been so high that the organization is working to expand to high schoolers. It needs additional sponsors to make it possible.

"They are definitely growing up in a fish bowl," said Ix. "Everything is public for everyone to see - their mistakes, their successes, their failures."

"I think that's the part that is hard for kids," added Mack, "that is to try to live up to these unrealistic expectations that social media puts out there that's perfect, and you have to be the best for this and the reality of it is we are all imperfect individuals."

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