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Cell Phone Policy

Cell Phone Letter

Dear Adventure WV First-Year Trip Students, Parents, Guardians, and other stakeholders:

At Adventure WV we work constantly to improve our programs. We seek to respond to the changing needs and interests of our students and their families, study current research and standard practices within our industry and strengthen the core features that make our programs so successful.

Recent years have seen a rise in feedback about our “No Cell Phone” policy: Adventure WV prohibits student cell phones on First Year Trips.  For safety and communication reasons, our staff carry cell phones in the “off” or “airplane mode” position as well as satellite phones or GPS tracker/communication devices where cell service is not available.  As smartphones have become more central to our lives, we receive more pushback about this policy.

But here’s the catch—despite increasing apprehension, at the conclusion of their program,  students themselves have expressed  overwhelming support of the “No Cell Phone” policy.

We invite you to re ad some of this striking student feedback, pulled from the Participant Evaluation Forms:

  • “We got a rare chance to unplug and really get to know each other.  It was essential.”
  • “It gave me headspace to process my experience and thoughts and forced me to form new relationships.”
  • “I focused instead on bonding with the people on the trip and I even found that I didn’t want my phone.”
  • “Maybe my favorite part because it forced everyone to be in the moment.”
  • “Essential to the spirit of the trip.”

We have also pulled some statistics from our post program evaluations from 2018 and 2019 when we started asking the question “Was not having a cell phone on a trip primarily a positive experience?”. Of the approximately 1800 students surveyed,  87.5% reported the No Cell Phone policy was a positive experience: that’s 1,575 students over two years who recommended that we  keep the policy.

We have also set out to explore more about this topic: why has positive feedback about the No Cell Phone continued in recent years?  An emerging body of research on Generation Z correlates increased mental health concerns with cell phone use. There is a paradox in constant connectivity: always being connected, but not physically together or sharing experiences, leaves many feeling isolated. The research and subsequent discourse is well summarized in articles from these leading publications:  The Atlantic—September 2017  ,  Vox—May 2019  The Atlantic—September 2019  , and  Psychology Today—February 2020 . Consider viewing  The Social Dilemma if you have Netflix access.

Psychologist Sarah Milam, PhD, has this to say about the No Cell Phone policy:

As a past clinician at the WVU Carruth Center and AWV employee, I have observed difficulties students face due to constant digital connectivity. Students are reporting higher levels of isolation, distress, anxiety, depression, and other negative mental health outcomes. Engaging on an AWV trip without their phones allows students to form greater connection with their peers, the experience, nature, and the moment – all ingredients for improved mental health and wellbeing supported by the research and students own self-reports. When students are able to be fully engaged in their AWV program, they often develop a number of resources that support their wellbeing at college – friendships, mentors, coping skills, and greater resilience skills. We believe these outcomes are best supported by a phone-free environment.

While the ultimate effects of smartphones on youth mental health are still very much in need of further research, the existing body of evidence supports the benefits of disconnecting periodically and intentionally.  As our phones keep us connected, they also isolate us. The Adventure WV “No Cell Phone” policy seeks to address this rising issue through helping students engage and be present with their peers in the moment, without the option to disconnect or be distracted.

As always you can contact us with questions about our No Cell Phone policy or anything else. We absolutely love our WVU community of students and are happy to answer further questions!

Sincer ely,

The Adventure WV Team