Electronics and Scouting

There are many out there that feel that there is no place for electronics in Scouting.. no phones, ipods, or gps units.  Well I tend to disagree with those folks, but with this caveat, training, skills, and appropriate time and place.
Training.  IF you are going to use a gps unit you need to know how to read a map and compass.  Goecaching has made gps very popular and has taken away some of the map and compass skills that we use in the field.  The game of geocaching on the other hand has gotten lots of folks out in the woods and hiking from point to point.  I love this idea, but… add the map and compass skill to your list when hunting for your next treasure.  Total reliance on the gps may leave you stranded when the batteries die.  the compass and map will never fail you.  So map and compass training is a must.
Training in basic camping (outdoor) skills are a must.  Knot tying, First aid, and setting camp, cooking, and the principles of leave no trace are all must have skills.  Your iPhone can help in those endeavors.  There are great apps out there that teach skills.  The Boy Scout handbook is a nice tool on the iPhone to take Scouting where the Scout is… on his phone.
In my troop we do not discourage the use of electronics.  Game units, gps, iPhones, etc are all welcome.  We do not have a written policy or a guidebook on how and when to use these items, it is understood however that there is an appropriate time and place.  Once a Scout understands the when and where and the fact that we welcome technology the instances of abuse are rare.  It is a matter of teaching, trusting, and letting them lead in the use of their electronics.
I think that there is a place for electronics in Scouting… and Scouting thinks so too.  If you trust your Scouts to do the right thing, train them in the proper use, and then establish the appropriate time and place that it all can be used, it will naturally find its place in your unit.
There recently was a good article in Backpacker magazine about skills and the iPhone.. check it out here.
Let me know what you think.  Leave a comment or drop me an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. Thanks for the different point of view. We have a no electronics ban which started in the era of ” boom boxes”. Perhaps it is time to reconsider and use a more nuanced rule. I will discuss with the troop leaders.


  2. I agree. There is a place for electronics in scouting. I feel that GPS units, digital cameras, and even hand held 2-way radios are appropriate. I take my scouts camping so they will learn to appreciate the outdoors, interact with their peers, and have fun. These electronic devices encourage this.

    I disapprove of “entertainment electronic devices” on scout outings. These include MP3 players, hand held video games, and portable DVD players. Scouts and parents argue that GameBoys or iPods help to pass the time when we travel. I agree that they do, but they also, unfortunately, keep the boys to themselves and their vision inside of the vehicle. Instead, I want them enjoying one another’s company and the outdoors we are driving through.

    Now this is where the line is fuzzy. As technologies progress, electronic devices are becoming integrated. Cell phones in essence are 2-way radios, they have GPS capabilities, and allow taking photos. You can also listen to music, watch videos and play games. They even have very applicable apps that help navigate, identify stars, constellations, and wildlife. There’s even apps to identify birds and listen to their songs. Talk about a great resource for appreciating nature.

    Even with all these applicable capabilities I think I need to draw a line and this is where I do it:

    (1) Scouts may not bring cell phones. Period.

    (2) A scout can bring an electronic device if it is used to navigate, communicate with others on the outing, or document the trip. If their device has gaming or music listening abilities, it needs to be left at home.

    I don’t see any reason why a scout needs to have constant contact capabilities with home when he is away for just a weekend or even a week long camp. I know that some parents, particularly moms, like to have some type of assurance that their son can call and check in with her. For me, being a scout is learning to be independent, to think and act for yourself. I assure parents that I will carry a cell phone that will stay off unless we need it for emergency or logistical communication. If they need to call, they can leave a message on my cell phone, and I’ll make sure to relay it to their son. Sometimes parents and scouts are unhappy about my rules, but if I plan on following the same rules on scout outings, their sons can do the same.


  3. I do not think cell phones should be allowed on troop activities for any reason. I understand the desire to support the use of new tools and apps, but it takes time to plan and train on their proper use. That is, I agree with your caveat–training, skills, and appropriate time and place. But that’s the catch … those require a fair amount of work.

    Basically, Scouting offers boys the unique opportunity to be outdoors away for electronics, to learn to rely on themselves.


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