Earlier this month, Deputy Chief Scout Executive Gary Butler wrote a guest blog at Scouting magazine in which he compared cellphones to utility knives. His bottom line: “I guess if we can control the proper use of a pocketknife, it should be possible to do the same with a smartphone.” (I reblogged Butler’s comments here.)
About 14 months ago, the leaders of Troop 96 in Grayslake, Ill., hit upon that same comparison, realizing that a cellphone (like a pocketknife) can be a tool or it can be a toy. Rather than ban cellphones from outings, they teach their proper use. They don’t have a long list of dos and don’ts, however. Instead–and this is the cool part–they’ve created a presentation that uses the Scout Law as a guide to cellphone use. For each point of the Law, they offer several related guidelines. Here are a few examples:
Loyal: A Scout needs to keep track of his device so that he is not making the troop wait for him while he locates it.
Courteous: A courteous Scout does not interrupt a conversation with others to stop and check for inbound messages. The courteous Scout focuses his attention on his personal interactions, such as conversations in which he is engaged.
Thrifty: A Scout is a smart consumer. He knows his voice, text, and data plans and uses them wisely, careful not to run up charges on apps and sites.
You can view the whole presentation on the troop’s website. I think it models a great way to teach proper use of technology–and to show Scouts how the Scout Law can guide all of their decisions.
So how effective has Troop 96’s electronics policy been? Here’s what Scoutmaster Pat Klemens told me: “We are now 14 months into this program and have had ‘zero’ issues. All I ever had to say to a Scout (or an adult) is, ‘Excuse me, is that a tool or a toy you have there?'”