posted on 2:49 PM, March 2, 2016
As the world steadily becomes more digital, camps are having to rethink policies around electronic devices. Parents and children in the digital world have new expectations.
Parents often want to stay connected with their children while they are at camp and parents and children are used to instantly communicating by cell phone. Letting go of that control can be unnerving.
Many camps have policies that prohibit digital devices for campers. The objectives are sound - allowing kids to develop meaningful bonds with other people face-to-face instead of through a screen, building self-confidence in a group situation outside of the home, getting in touch with nature and the outdoors...; there are a lot of reasons for digital detox at camp. There are also reasons why digital detox is difficult.
A camp with a "no cell phone" policy might have to consider that cell phones are used almost exclusively in place of cameras by many people. Taking pictures at camp never used to be an issue. Kids took pictures on film, had them printed when they got home, stored them in an album and looked at them from time to time to remind themselves of good times at camp. Today, those pictures can be uploaded instantly to a wide variety of media sites which, in many cases, are open to public access. Campers uploading images of life at camp in real time can't be all bad, but there are reasons it can't be all good either.
Privacy is often a real concern for parents but is not necessarily seen with the same degree of concern by young people who have grown up in a digital world and who are used to sharing everything through social media. It can be difficult to explain to young people the risks of sharing your life publicly through social media, but they are there. Everyone has heard unhappy stories of social manipulation of young people through the internet.
When pictures are taken with GPS enabled devices like cell phones and many digital cameras, metadata is recorded that includes your geographic position in latitude and longitude. Location based media like Facebook or Twitter may have features to remove metadata when sharing and uploading photographs, but it might only work on their web interface, not when using a cell phone.
Effectively, anyone who wants to know your whereabouts might be able to download your image, or an image you've taken of your house or your car or your child, run it through an application to extract the metadata, use the information to locate where the photo was taken and, if it's uploaded in real time, where you are. Sites like Foursquare use this technology, and other sites like "Please Rob Me", and "We Know What You Are Doing" were examples of how this information could be used nefariously. To see how simply metadata can be extracted go to:
Another consideration to the use of cell phones in camp is cyber bullying. The "schoolyard bully" now has an instant international platform, and there is little or no recourse for the victim. In a "no cell phone" camp environment, leaders are more easily able to monitor and control a bullying situation than they might be if damaging images or words were being uploaded to the web without their knowledge.
There is no single solution to the use of digital devices in camp, but finding a balance that works for parents, children and camps is important and will become more so as digital devices hold greater influence in our lives.