What is everyone's perspective on allowing teens to bring phones on retreats and why? Would love to hear different perspectives & experiences
let me preface this by saying i'm not a youth minister anymore, and a lot has changed since then, but back in the day, i not only had a no phones policy, i had a no watch policy, and i had all clocks taken out of the retreat spaces so that teens had absolutely no clue what time it was. they were completely shut off from the outside world allowing me and the core team the opportunity to fully immerse them in the new world we had created for them.
i got a LOT of flack from parents and teens alike beforehand, but afterwards, they all understood.
My policy is No Phones. it is a distraction and the youth need permission to disconnect for a while from the every day reality. This is reaffirmed by a number of articles and podcasts I have been reading and listening to that dive into the negative effects of teens being hyper-connected. Check out: http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/438902974/screen-time-part-i
I'm all about encouraging our teens to be off their phones during retreats, but I have never been the youth minister that collects phones during a retreat. I try to do my best to set ground rules and give the kids the freedom to make a choice. If they do end up bringing their phone on the retreat, I encourage them to leave it in their backpack and have it turned off for the remainder of the weekend unless it is an emergency. I definitely agree with what others have said regarding the notion that more often than not, phones take away from the experience. Although, depending on the type of retreat I have been known to encourage teens to bring their phones to take pictures and post them to social media at specific times throughout the weekend. This is a fun easy way to have some free marketing and publicity for certain events throughout the year.