Heading off to summer camp these days is a little like traveling back in time to the 1990s. Goodbye Facebook, Twitter, and smartphones; hello digital detox. It’s an adjustment, to be sure, but most kids come to appreciate the break—or at least get used to it.
Believe it or not, it’s often the parents, accustomed to constant contact, who struggle most with technology withdrawal. “Parents are asking for more and more from camps in terms of how much they’ll update them about their kids,” says Blake Sunshine Leiber, a social media consultant whose company, Social Summer Camp, helps camps get their social media platforms off the ground. In most cases, “camps want to provide updates, but at the same time they want to make sure they’re letting the kids have independence away from their parents’ watchful eyes.”
At a majority of camps, parents can log on to see daily photos, blog updates, videos, and even mealtime menus. Parents with kids at Camp La Junta, for example, an all-boys camp in the Hill Country, are treated to a daily newsletter with information about weather, special events, and awards. They also get to view weekly videos highlighting camp activities, and every two weeks receive reports from the camp director and their kids’ counselors.
“Some camps will have several professional photographers whose sole job each day is to take photos of your children having fun,” Leiber says, adding that there are parents who instruct their kids to hold up a shoe, give a thumbs up, or send some other signal to confirm that they are indeed having fun. “That means hundreds, sometimes thousands, of photos a day.”
Long-distance parental engagement varies from camp to camp, although it’s almost impossible to find one that doesn’t do something. Leiber recommends reviewing a camp’s social media policy to see if it’s a fit for your family.