Scouting Magazine poses the following question on “How to Control Misuse of Cell Phones”;
A few of our parents want their sons to be able to use their personal cell phones during meetings and camp-outs. What can we do to keep the technology from being disruptive, yet allow the parents the security they’re asking for?
A parents desire for the convience and reassurance that cell phones afford must be tempered with a knowledge of the practices and goals of Scouting. I have no objection to Scouts carrying cell phones so long as they and their parents understand their proper use in the context of Scouting.
We must also accept that cell phone use is a part of modern culture. Many of our Scouts have grown up with cell phones and will use them much more frequently than we may think advisable.
A Scouts autonomy to meet challenges should be preserved, as should his safety. A personal cell phone should probably not be the first resource for either. During a properly run activity any emergency should be
immediately referred to the Scoutmaster or adult in charge for action. Imagine the
confusion if Scouts start calling in emergency help before the
Scoutmaster knows what is happening.
If parents want their Scouts to check in via cell phone periodically for the parents own peace of mind I would ask them to consider that this may compromise the experience for the Scout. We must also consider the disruptive influence of incoming calls from friends.
Like any tool cell phones can be used improperly. We should discuss their proper use in the same way we do pocket knives and axes. Here’s a suggested list of rules along the lines of the Tote N’ Chip card. Perhaps we can call it a “Cell Contract”
1. During meetings and outings I will either turn my cell phone off or disable the ringer.
2. I will not answer incoming calls and messages nor make outgoing messages or calls until it is appropriate to do so courteously to my fellow Scouts and have the permission of my leader.
3. In any emergency I will first inform my Scoutmaster or adult in charge of the situation and obey their directions.
A lively, active, engaging program at meetings and observing the rules of Safe Scouting (especially the Buddy System) on outings and a clear understanding on their proper use will greatly reduce the likely hood of cell phone ‘abuse’.