Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

Before you tell your Scouts and Venturers to power down their smartphones at the beginning of your next adventure, I have something you need to read.

The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, penned a guest blog post that offers his nuanced opinion on the place that iPhones, Androids and devices of their ilk have in our movement.

Does Gary think they add to or detract from the delivery of a great Scouting experience? Read on and find out.

Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

By Gary Butler, BSA Deputy Chief Scout Executive and Chief Operating Officer

Gary ButlerI have heard lots of conversations recently on whether smartphones should be allowed during Scouting activities. One of our employees shared with me that when his son goes camping the leader takes all the phones away and returns them when the activity is over.

Does the use of a smartphone as part of Scouting’s activities disrupt the experience, or can it be a “cure” to make our current experiences more relevant to today’s youth? This comment really struck home and got me to thinking as to what is the right answer.

Sometimes to find the answer to these kind of debates on how to go forward, it takes a look backwards to find the answer. One of Baden-Powell’s most interesting quotes is, “A fisherman does not bait his hook with food he likes. He uses food the fish likes. So with boys.”

This quotes speaks to me about the importance of our programs being able to connect with our youth.

When I was a Scout, I recall everyone had a utility knife in their pockets when going on a Scouting activity. Very useful tool a pocketknife. Over time they became quite sophisticated with improvements that added can-openers, special blades for cutting rope, a flashlight, tweezers and even a toothpick.

When I served as a Scoutmaster, I always felt it was my responsibility to be sure each one of our Scouts was properly trained in the use of his knife. After all, it can be dangerous. In some cases, if a Scout was not using it properly then he may have lost it for period of time.

So let’s look at the smartphone. Not used correctly it definitely could be a deterrent to a nice Scouting experience. Used properly, to its full potential, it could lead to a great Scouting experience.

It clearly beats the compass when it comes to learning about effective land or water navigation. The access to video can really make the art of teaching knots a lot easier. And the apps for stargazing using the internal GPS make the astronomy experience out of this world. Then there is the flashlight capability, the easy access to cooking recipes and all kinds of first aid information should that pocketknife cause an accident.

All of these capabilities are pretty cool, but nothing compares to the most important part of the smartphone when it comes to connecting with youth today. That, of course, is its ability to capture memories.

Unfortunately, I do not have too many memories of my days as a Cub or Boy Scout. Not every youth had access to a camera when I was in Scouting. Using the smartphone, a Scout can capture every single one of those “life-changing memories you can’t get anywhere else.” Memories that can be shared with family, friends and maybe one day their children.

I guess if we can control the proper use of a pocketknife, it should be possible to do the same with a smart phone.

I think it’s so easy for us to fall in the trap of trying to relive our experiences as a youth in Scouting through the eyes of the Scouts today. Scouts of today need different bait if we want to connect with them.

Our mission, values and desired outcomes of leadership and character development haven’t changed since that first campout on Brownsea Island — just the experiences that each generation of youth find most enjoyable.

– Gary

111 thoughts on “Smartphones in Scouting: A curse or a cure?

  1. There are times in scouting when using a smartphone can be appropriate. My son as Senior Patrol Leader will use his phone to remember upcoming events for the troop which were in an email. I can see using the smartphone for learning different skills. I don’t think that it is a good idea to teach them to use it for navigation instead of a map and compass. The scouts need to learn the basics, before they get lazy and use the technology. My compass will not run out of power because I don’t have access to a charger, nor will my map suddenly disappear because the power ran out on my phone. I think later on in the program we should teach the scouts to use those functions, but they need to learn the basics first.

  2. Bring your phone…I bring mine. The Scoutmaster brings his. We are not the electronics police.

    Here is the simple rule in our Troop since we backpack most trips 10-20-30 miles in a weekend: Bring it. You are responsible for it, responsible for the content on it, and responsible if you loose it, it gets stolen, or it gets broken. If your battery dies…oh well, you figure out how to keep it charged on 50 miler. Work as a team and figure out how to manage that resource if it is valuable to you just like the resources of food, water, shelter.

    When you really and I mean really have an expeditionary style troop like we have the phones are in the packs for the majority of the day. They tend to come out when a picture is needed here and there on the trail or to listen to a tune say mile 8-9 when you are a little warn out and have 2-3 more to go uphill. It always picks up the moral and the pace. I think that is great. I love to see the perspective of the Scout posted on our Troop Facebook page or Tweeted out as he takes pictures of his journey. I never stop laughing at the selfies they come up with cause a Scout can find the funny in every situation.

    As adults with them we update our locations in real time if on an expedition in the backcountry. It helps us bread crumb trails, look at hiking pace, and feed back future data to the PLC when they are planning the next 50 miler.

    The parents enjoy seeing the pictures and they are part of the journey as it is happening in real time. For the worry parents this has done wonders. Their smartphone at home goes ding… we are on the trail 08:30… later that day… ding we are at the waterfall getting ready to cool off… ding… check out my selfie! Ding… all in bed, fed, and a great day of Scouting has happened! You don’t know how many parents have calmed way down because of this. Especially on multi-state or multi-national trips.

    Later after you have hiked 10 or 15 miles in a day and it’s raining outside or you are resting your feet, it is nice to sit in your hammock and listen to your favorite tune or watch a movie. Most of the time I fall asleep listening to music. Each of them now also have an alarm clock. Each of them now have a communications system if you are spread out on a trail across multiple miles in multiple patrols. We can hit one button and say shelter in place. SPL/PLs mark your locations, check the weather, hey…where is Timmy? The SPL who is on the other side of the field can get a quick message from the SM saying assemble the Troop…for we challenge you to a game of ultimate.

    For the leadership who is trying to control a problem that really doesn’t exist, think about this for a minute: Is it really your decision to make? Are you really in a boy-led troop if you are calling the cell phone shots? Our PLC is in charge of the decision making in the Troop with the concurrence of the SM and oversight by the Committee. If they vote to allow them, then allow them. Instruct them in the proper use, proper behavior, and any YP or safety issues. This is no different then anything else we do in Scouting.

    Maybe as a leader you have bigger issues to deal with than weather or not Little Timmy is playing angry birds in his tent. If he wants to do that, celebrate, he is in camp with you and not out getting in trouble. If that is the Scouting experience he chooses than so be it.

    But if you offer a really, and I mean really good program, they tend to come out of the tent and join in.

    • Great comment – but how are you communicating via text or email (with parents), or even getting your smartphone to work in the “backcountry”? From my limited experience – no one can ever get coverage in the true backcountry (cell phone companies don’t put towers up there). Curious to hear/understand more. Thanks.

      • DoubleDibbs,

        It is getting harder and harder to find a location without a bar or two, even in the backcountry, especailly on the East Coast. Ironically I get 2 bars on my Iphone at home located between 2 Walmarts in urban SC. When I took them to very rural areas of Honduras last year… 5 bars.

        Way… off in the places where no body goes… you have options of sat comms. There are two or three that come to mind outside of an actual sat phone. Cerberus, SPOT Connect and Delorme InReach SE are devices that allow you to push info from your SmartPhone via bluetooth back home. Now these are not inexpensive options and each model has plus and minus points. Some you can rent, some you have to buy, all have subscriptions, etc.

    • If you do a lot of big hikes and think you need a way to keep it charged, they have some portable ways to charge your phone, and some hiking solar panels at you can also get their products at amazon. The things they have for sale really come in handy at the BSA 2014 National Jamboree.

  3. I believe Mr. Butler has is about right, when it comes to mobile devices for today and the future. The biggest obstacle I see to properly incorporating mobile devices into the scouting program is this: “I guess if we can control the proper use of a pocketknife, it should be possible to do the same with a smart phone.” But that is all he says. No mention of BSA’s “Cyber Chip” nor the section in YPT about improper use of mobile devices/cameras/cyber bullying/etc. Is this article perhaps a subtle “nudge” to have Cyber Chip required for youth to “carry” and use a mobile device during any scouting event? After all, other “chips” teach safety and proper use and are REQUIRED for a youth to carry/use the tool at a scouting activity. Whittling Chip is required for pocketknife use. Totin’ Chip for ax and hand tools. While I find cyber “safety” is being emphasized more and more, proper use/cyber “etiquette” is not yet emphasized enough. Our cyber world and the devices that go with it have developed so quickly and are so popular in all areas of our society especially the youth, that we grown-ups often don’t realize the problems that can arise from the misuse of these devices, whether intended or innocent. Perhaps BSA would consider including Cyber Chip in future JTE score requirements for units &/or districts? (similarly: ScoutStrong was added to JTE to encourage regular health/fitness activities in units). I’ve taught/mentored Cyber Chip to CS and Scouts and find that MANY ADULTS don’t realize the possible dangers/problems that can arise from simple/innocent misuse of or ignorance about their “smart” device.

  4. I think there are two different discussions here….

    a) Is a smartphone useful with it’s apps on a hike, trip, merit badge, jamboree, training, ICOE (in case of emergency), etc.

    Yes. Of course. Why wouldn’t it be? Let them have it and use it. It IS a pocketknife in that regard.

    b) Should scouts be allowed to browse, play games, tweet, talk to a girlfriend (or boyfriend now), mom or dad, facebook, make videos, or otherwise kill time and be distracted when they are at summer camp, troop meetings, PLC meeting, when they should be leading their troop, when they should be listening to the leader or a presentation, concentrating on a trail or enjoying nature?

    I think the debate is in b) and depends on the troop, the parents and the leaders….and more importantly the age, maturity and history of each scout.

    I know of a troop who doesn’t allow scouts to hammock-camp until they’ve
    a) slept in a tent on the ground for a certain number of times (so they know) and
    b) taken hammock training (to not damage the tree or injure themselves.)

    So why not with Smartphones? No phones until
    a) you’ve reached Life Scout and
    b) either earned the cyberchip, gone through troop training or otherwise shown themselves to be responsible with the device.

  5. I’m all for the way I learned Scouting/outdoors skills 65 years ago! That’s the way you learn self sufficiency, and how to survive outdoors. This modern technology is super too! (As long as you keep it charged in case you need to call for emergency help)
    If you are going to be texting or talking on the phone most of the time, you’ll be missing out on the “here and now” outdoor experience in person with your friends!
    That’s my advice for really enjoying the trip by living in the present…so you can tell people about it when you return!

  6. Smartphones can be great tools. But one of the many goals of scouting is to connect with our youth on a personal level in order to pass along life’s lessons and learnings. An electronic compass is great, provided the battery holds up, is waterproof and can adjust for declination – otherwise its excess baggage.

    Not capturing life changing moments on a camera phone is not nearly as profound as actually living the moment. Life should not be lived through a camera lense, it should be experienced first hand. Scouting is not about observing life, or fun – its about taking an active part and living it. I would argue that the millions of scouts who came before us didn’t have a leaser experience because they didn’t have a smartphone. They also didn’t need the adulation and approval of a virtual network of friends because they had real ones.

    If your scouting program is not robust or interesting enough to keep our youth engaged without resorting to electronic gadgetry, game consoles and virtual experiences, then maybe we are fishing for the wrong types of fish.

  7. I had the pleasure of serving as Scoutmaster for a troop at the 2013 National Jamboree. My regular unit-level job is Assistant Scoutmaster of a 30+ member troop.

    The first of my two cents will deal with the National Jamboree: Mobile phones were promoted at the national level for the jamboree, so we had no choice in the matter. What we found at the jamboree was that 1.) the Scouts used them so much for games, etc. that the batteries quickly died and Scouts spent more time trying to charge phones than they did doing program. Most of my “behavioral” issues dealing with my scouts were with commissioners and staff running the Scouts away from unapproved charging areas, and 2.) the advertised wireless network did not actually work as advertised, and traditional cell phone coverage was spotty. This brought frustration to Scouts, who couldn’t do what they thought they could and frustration to parents, who couldn’t reach little Johnny like they thought they would be able to. We even had the hassle and expense (on the parent) of FedEx-ing a new SIM card to little Johnny when they discovered his current card did not work outside the area. A LOT of time, resources and emotional capital was expended on phones.

    The second of my two cents will deal with what I believe is the most important issue, and one that has yet to be mentioned: In a time with nearly every child has a smart phone with data capabilities, we CANNOT control was they are receiving or sending. What a 12 year old Scout cues up to watch late at night when they are in their tent, or what they choose to photograph or video at inappropriate times or situations. At the troop level, we have already had to deal with video of inappropriate activities leaking to a broader audience. YES, the behavior would have happened with or without the video, and YES, we dealt with the behavior. The unintended, and collateral consequence is in the number who are affected outside the limited circle that would have otherwise been effected. It’s a Pandora’s Box that has been opened, and we’re just now peeking inside.

    What is a useful and necessary tool for a mature, responsible adult can be a dangerous and hurtful weapon in the hands of a pubescent, impressionable, precocious and mischievous child and it’s unintended damage can be exponential. They are absolutely forbidden on troop overnights except when used expressly for technology-based activities. For that I make no apologies.

  8. Reblogged this on Mark Ray | Writer and commented:
    Great thoughts on the use of smartphones in Scouting, which I support. Of course, many Scouters disagree, some with valid reasons. (My successor as Scoutmaster was quite surprised at summer camp the day a mom showed up to pick up her homesick son, who’d brought a contraband phone to camp.) Whether you agree or disagree with allowing smartphones in your troop, remember one thing: It’s not your troop. :-) The patrol leaders’ council, with your guidance, should set policies like this. Too often, we say we support the youth leadership method but then make decisions by fiat or pull rank when we disagree with the decisions our youth leaders make. And think about this question: Which of these options will teach youth leaders more about leadership: 1) “I’m the Scoutmaster, and I say no smartphones.”) or 2) “Guys, you all remember the problem we had at summer camp last year when Johnny called his mom and she drove out to pick him up. How could you craft a policy that would prevent problems like that but still allow Scouts to use smartphones as a tool?”

  9. The problem is not using the phone as a GPS. The problem is when Scout A says something to Scout B that Scout B takes offense at and MY cell phone rings because “The boys are being mean to my son – do something!” or the parent even shows up at the campsite! We have numerous mothers that call their son one, two or even 3 times a day to “make sure he’s O.K.” if they have their phones. Yes, I’ve told them several times that this is not how the Scouting program works. They don’t care.

  10. While technology has many benefits already discussed, realistically kids use it for entertainment more than anything else. One of the benefits of scouting is escaping the mindless entertainment that technology offers. Kids already waste enormous amounts of time on this. As a mom, I don’t worry about my scouts on camp outs with the troop. I trust my boys and the leadership. I would however worry about what they are exposed to with unsupervised access to internet. Many young boys do not have good judgement. My boys do not have smart phones. I let them go on scouting trips to learn about the outdoors, push themselves to be independent, learn leadership skills. I think that being boy led does not mean allowing them to fundamentally change what scouting is about. It is not about video games, You tube videos, Facebook, Twitter, instagram or any of the other internet sites that consume today’s kids. If you want to allow them to use a smart phone as a teaching tool, use one of the adult phones so that it is only used for learning.

  11. Like everything in life, it is finding the balance.

    As for recording “every single one of those life changing moments”, I would have to disagree, at least in part. I am a professional photographer, so, if anyone can appreciate capturing moments, it’s me…but not everything needs to be recorded. Even when photographing a wedding I suggest to the couple that not everything needs to be photographed, that some things should be memories. Besides, when photographing something, your experience is limited – it is very easy to be so consumed with making the photograph that you don’t take in everything else that is going on. Yes, the opportunity to make images of the experience is well worth the time, but take a moment to step back and take in the whole thing as well.

    • Mark: That is what I was trying to say earlier. I read the same thing somewhere about being so consumed in filming/photographing the scene that one actually misses what is happening.

  12. I am all for the good ways in which smart phones can enhance the scouting experience. My son uses his to look up recipes, keep his SPL notes and plans, find locations,… in other words, he uses his phone appropriately during scouting events. He may also play a game or watch the news on the way to and from the destination (a four hour drive can be long). He always makes sure to watch the world go by looking out the window on these trips, but sometimes you just want to listen to music or just enjoy yourself (he happens to enjoy being up to date with world happenings).
    He is now 16, a Life Scout, SPL and just finished his Eagle Project. He has a great deal of maturity under his belt.
    Here is my problem, 3 years ago, on a patrol campout, a scout a year older than my son (a high schooler) pulled out a smart phone in the tent. They did not play angry birds. This kid pulled up a porn video and showed it to the 3 middle school boys in his tent. My son was very affected by this, disgusted and disturbed. The other two boys were engaged, my son rolled over and tried to tune out the sounds he heard and go to sleep. While we want to believe that all scouts have good intentions, they are just curious boys and some kids like to flirt with the “forbidden”. My son told me about this incident, since it affected him greatly. The adults in charge had no idea that this happened.
    This is my only problem with boys having smart phones on Boy Scout trips. Some WILL use it inappropriately and cause undue emotional harm to others. Adults on the trip will not know about this. Boys will not come forward to tell about this. Electronics were not allowed in our troop at the time of this campout, yet it happened anyway.

    I like the suggestion of limiting smartphone use to those boys who have had training and reached Life Scout rank.

  13. Sorry, I have to say they are a curse. Having been a Camp Director and experiencing a lightning strike at the camp I was directing a smart phone would have caused a multitude of problems. Media personnel would have been flooding all over the camp before it would have been possible to secure it. As phone conversations go the word would have made it home but been blown all out of proportion and an ensuing panic would have sent hundreds of worried parents unnecessarily to camp.
    Protocol calls for a specific chain of command in such instances to control panic, limit chaos, keep media out of the way until an appropriate time, and paramount: get aid to those fallen Scouts and Scouters in the most efficient manner. As it was keeping media away from the campers and out of camp (A Youth Protection problem) was a nightmare and required police intervention to do so.
    Thank God there were no “smart phones” in 2001!

  14. I can’t speak for Android but the big problem with IOS is the pathetic parental controls. You can’t limit some apps and allow others and every time you disable the controls all the setting revert to default and it takes 5 minutes to set them up again.

    Unlike choosing an appropriate pocket knife you have the choice of handing them a butter knife or an assault riffle, there really is no middle ground.

    • We have used BSA’s Cyber Chip at CS & Scout levels since it was introduced a short time ago. However, I really like the idea of specifically incorporating The Scout Law, and perhaps even the Oath into the Cyber Chip program.

  15. It’s how you coach the Scouts to use or not use the tool.

    I’ve had Scouts with cellphones in their pockets use them responsibly and with great success and benefit.

    A Scout uses a smartphone to look-up the weather before heading off on a hike, a Scout takes before and after pictures of the troop’s service project, a patrol checks in with the SPL via text message when they find the next marker of an orientation course — all great!

    A Scout has his nose in his phone and spends the weekend on Facebook, texting his girlfriend and ignoring his other patrol members; two Scouts are too busy watching YouTube videos and listening to music to really enjoy being in the outdoors; Scouts posts rude comments about each other on Facebook; a Scout plays Angry Birds rather than cleaning up the campsite; the Scouts decide to prank call people using someone’s phone — all bad!

    But I’ve also had Scouts without cellphones be distracted, disconnected, and troublemakers.

    A Scout has his nose in a book and spends the weekend in his tent ignoring his other patrol members; two Scouts are too busy playing with their trading cards to really enjoy being in the outdoors; two Scouts get in a fight and trade insults or pull pranks on each other; a Scout is wrapped up doing a crossword puzzle rather than cleaning up the campsite; the Scouts find a payphone by the bathrooms and prank call people — all bad!

    It’s not the phone that is “bad” it’s how it’s used.

    • I agree! I’ve had way more “problems” with Scouts being disconnected from their patrol members, responsibilities or the great outdoors because they were wrapped up in a book or a card game than I’ve had problems because they’ve been distracted by a phone. I had an SPL spend his whole week at summer camp completing his summer reading for his AP classes. Should we ban books from campout too?

  16. In the “real world” phones exist. And we should be teaching our Scouts how to “be prepared” to live and function in the real world.

    Yes, I want my Scout to to make eye-contact and have a real conversation while they sit around the campfire on a Saturday night. But I want it because the Scout have manners and they know how to moderate and control themselves while they have that alluring cell phone burning a hole in their pocket (yes, maybe they use it to look up a fact in a conversation, or post a picture of a mountaintop view to their friends on Facebook, or even use it send their mom a text saying they survived the 20-mile hike earlier that day). I don’t want it to be simply because their phones were confiscated when they arrived on Friday. That doesn’t teach responsibility and self-control. When they get out into the “real wold” they won’t know how to balance a phone and the real world and will go off to college and spend their Saturday nights wrapped up in their phone rather than making eye-contact and interacting with other people.

    We want Scouts to be prepared for life. Cellphones are a part of life in the 21st century.

    • You’re so right about that. Sadly adults need self control in this area too. A funny, but serious event happened recently in court between Apple and Samsung. Judge Koh had to collect people’s smartphones up because they were being used during the trial.

  17. I have 7 photos of my scouting experience in actual printed out camera form. I have a few digital stills – but my parents didn’t go on campouts with me – I didn’t have a dedicated photographer for my experiences. I kept a journal, but I wish I had video of camp skits, photos from activities and such. I had a camera and never developed the film because that was an add on expense and then they got lost….

    I think the camera thing is huge. I also think the apps can bring a lot for organization – if they are taught well how to use them. I think each Troop should decide for themselves what their policy is and update it every once in a while.

    I also think the social media benefits of youth sharing their appropriate photos with their friends could help scouting as well.

  18. After reading all of the comments, maybe … and I’m just brain storming here … those troops and leaders who don’t have a problem with smartphones have a healthy, well-run troop and program; and those that do have a problem with smartphones is an indication that the troop leadership or program has some issues that need to be addressed.

    • Maybe..or the troops that don’t have a problem only THINK they don’t have a problem. Although many of us like to believe we have our fingers on the pulse of our troop at all times, we really don’t know everything that happens out of our sight.

      • What I’m hearing is rather than try and educate and help our Scouts grow or trust them; we’ll just outlaw something they use in their daily life. It makes us look foolish.

        • There are plenty of things that youth use in their daily lives that are generally “outlawed”. Would a leader look “foolish” because they didn’t allow a youth to bring his Xbox camping when the site they are going to has electricity?

        • You’re really reaching and not getting it OR you aren’t open to change. The world changes we adapt or we become irrelevant.

  19. We as adults have an obligation to always think of ways to properly bait our hooks and reel in our scouts. It’s easy to question and criticize change but it is a true leader who finds a way to make change a positive experience. Make it work.

    • I held a Catholic camporee~retreat for around 140 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts this weekend at our local camp. We had so many stations and open time activities that the kids couldn’t get to all of them. Their free time was just that FREE TIME. The thing they really seemed to like was a pick up football game on the parade field with 30 to 40 boys and girls playing together. Maybe because we baited the hook right we had no issues with electronic devices. We never even talked about it. It’s our responsibility to make electronics a non issue. Do that & you don’t need blanket policies.

  20. This article came up with our adult leaders after our campfire this past weekend. There are many positive things that smartphones can add to the Scouting experience, but there are dangers too. What about the Scout that takes an inappropriate picture and then sends out a Tweet or posts it their Instagram or Facebook page. Whether they do it while on the camp out or wait till they get home because they didn’t have cell signal, its out there and the damage is done. It only takes a second to make a bad decision that effects them for a lifetime.

    That said, I think we can handle it like we do any potentially dangerous activity; teach them the proper way to use the tool. We have a Totin’ chip, maybe we can develope a “Micro-chip” or something.

    • If nothing else, perhaps this thread will publicize to some that have not realized it yet.

      There IS ALREADY a Cyber-Chip for this exact thing (instruction on appropriate and inappropriate ways to handle a potentially harmful tool in a sage and responsible manner). In fact, the Cyber-Chip even goes on to cover Social Media and appropriate uses there as well.

      BSA is ALL ABOUT allowing Boys (and young women) to practice and learn in a safe environment. As Leaders, let’s never pass the buck. I want to be confident that we did all we could to mold these youngsters into leaders when we had the chance.

  21. I often use the analogy of a sports team- how many players have a cell phone when they are on the field? Or even sitting on the bench? – why is okay to have one on a scout outing, but not in a sports event? – You could make the same arguments for the benefits of capturing the moment, looking up important stats, prepping for the game as a reason to allow players to have cell phones while sitting on the bench-

    As with any tool, it takes maturity to use them properly- after all a chain saw is a much more efficient way to cut firewood than a bow saw, but we don’t let scouts use them for obvious safety reasons) – my biggest issue with the phones is that their primary use is communication- and inappropriate communication can quickly exacerbate a situation and destroy many a teaching opportunity– (in the current YPT video on there is a scene of a scout taking photos with his phone in the bathroom– and while the photo taking alone is bad enough, the cell phone affords him the opportunity to post if for the world to see immediately) –

    There is no easy answer- but I have I appreciate some of the suggestions I have read in this thread-

  22. Let’s face one simple fact, technology is here to stay. If Scouting is to remain relevant in the eyes of the youth then we must be open to using technology as one of the many tools we use to teach them. That is not to say that it should replace the old ways of doing things, but it can augment it in a limited way, limited so as not to be a distraction to the program. Let’s face it, anything can be a distraction to youth. Don’t blame everything on the technology, there are some youth who just have a hard time paying attention.

    I would suggest that there be times and places where technology would be allowed to be used and others where it would not. Any place where it could augment the experience of scouting should be welcome. Some places where you might want to ban them would be during work details, meals (eating part, not prep) and definately after lights out.

    For practical uses, let’s take Orienteering for an example. Sure, you could go Full GPS Guidance with a Smart Phone and they wouldn’t learn anything. But, if you show them the power and the limitations of the device. Then show them the Old School map and compass way. Then, how about showing them how to find the north star, look for moss on a tree, use sticks and a shadow to determine direction.Maybe even bring a magnet and a needle and show them how to MAKE a compass. You can then bring it back full circle and show them how the smart phone can help, but the GPS signal can be lost in dense forest or steep cliffs. How quickly the battery can run out and how hard it can be to use in bright sun or in rain or snow. Discuss how even the best Surveying GPS needs a base reference point from a fixed benchmark position to calibrate for accuracy. In teaching them that way they have been given a Full Overview of Orienteering, understand may ways of doing the same thing and come out with a better appreciation of the Old School Method.

    If you are going to teach them Photography would you use a Film Camera?

    As far as the Picture Taking goes, what is better than Scouts using Online Media to show their friends and family what they have been doing at camp. Talk about free PR!
    Yes, there is the possibility of someone taking an inappropriate picture, but aren’t we trying to teach them responsibility?

    There are tons of great Scout friendly apps out there for iOS and Android.

    Don’t ban them, definitely don’t use a ‘jammer’ as they are illegal and block everything including 911 calls.

    If we are to embrace S.T.E.M. then how can we say no to smartphones? Control them and use them to make the Scouting experience better for today’s youth. You may even find them not wanting to use them after a while and start relying on themselves.

    Set the rules, give them guidance and embrace the present. You may find it a powerful tool to teach them the past.

  23. I did not read all of the commits, scanned through some of them and one point that I feel was missed. Real time weather alerts. Smart use of the smart phones has kept our troop well out of dangerous weather.

    Set some rules, when they can use them and when not. The moms and dad who don’t camp with the troop will love getting photos sent home!

    Maybe a Smartphone Merit badge?

  24. I take issue with this statement:

    “It clearly beats the compass when it comes to learning about effective land or water navigation.”

    It does until it is out of power, if you are referring to it using it as a GPS receiver. I would add that the Geocaching merit badge teaches that a compass and map are essential for effective GPS use.

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