Scoutmaster Donnelly imposes a lot of rules on the members of Troop 74, and his ban on cellphones on campouts is perhaps the most important — and most ignored. Scouts who can’t remember a time without cellphones chafe at this restriction and often sneak their phones into their backpacks. For the younger Scouts, this is mostly so they can play games. For the older ones, it’s the draw of Snapchat and Instagram.
Senior Patrol Leader Shawn knows what’s going on but generally turns a blind eye as long as phones stay in tents and get turned off after bedtime. But a situation on the troop’s winter campout puts him in quite the predicament.
About 11:30 Saturday night, Shawn’s tentmate, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Kade, sees hints on social media that students from his high school are planning to vandalize their rival school that very night. The information is solid enough that Kade and Shawn are sure something’s going to happen. They’d like to tell Mr. Donnelly, who happens to be a teacher at their school, but that would mean admitting to having a contraband phone.
What should they do?
Have your youth read the dilemma together and then discuss these questions:
Should Shawn and Kade tell Mr. Donnelly, knowing they’re likely to get in trouble? Why or why not?
Assuming you think they should tell someone, what action could they take that would keep themselves out of trouble? Should they take that action to save themselves even if they don’t think it would be as effective as telling Mr. Donnelly? Why or why not?
How sure of their information should they be before telling Mr. Donnelly or another adult?
Does the nature of their concern matter? What if it were something worse than potential vandalism? (Note: This is a good place to point out that it’s imperative to report suspicions of child abuse or suspicions that a person might harm others or himself or herself.)
Given the public nature of social media, other people likely saw the same posts Kade saw. Should the fact that others might report the potential vandalism affect Shawn and Kade’s decision? Why or why not?
Finally, invite the youth to agree on a course of action that Shawn and Kade should take. Follow up by discussing whether and how they could use this situation to start a discussion with Mr. Donnelly about the troop’s cellphone policy.
“The First Rule of Electronics”
A better idea than outright banning or allowing cell phones and other electronic devices is what I call the “First Rule of Electronics”: “You shall not use your electronics when you should be paying attention to the people and world around you.”
All else follows. When you’re driving, you should be paying attention to the road and other cars. So the answer is no. When you’re at a meal with others, you should be paying attention to the people at the table with you. When you’re on an outing, you should be paying attention to others in your group or your surroundings.
Here are a few occasions when it can be acceptable: Looking up something while in a group about a question the group has. Playing a multi-player game with the group you’re with. Using the camera. Looking at the clock.
If the troop had this rule in place, the boys use of their phones would be quite acceptable. Their use does not break the first rule.