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Living with Technology: Screens-free summer camp for kids, but parents keep tabs via tech

For many children, summer means summer camp, and frequently, sleep-away camp.

Both of our children love sleep-away camp. Not only are they generally outdoors most of the time, but they're active, exploring new things, and generally having a great time.

Interestingly enough, most camps -- especially the traditional camps (e.g. swimming, sports, hiking, etc.) -- discourage if not outright ban the use of technology. I applaud this. Having a break from screens is a good thing -- and not just for children.

On the other hands, parents and kids frequently want to communicate with each other.

The preferred way to communicate is via letters. The letters help kids stay in touch with their families. Parents of a certain age may be familiar with Alan Sherman's 1963 song "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" (http://youtu.be/9jjiWS__Mp0) as a classic letter to parents from a child at camp.

With each camp, they typically give parents guidelines as to what to say and not say to their children in letters. The things to say are that they love the child and they look forward to seeing them again. The things not to say are how much fun the family is having without their child or the really fun things the family did without the child.

But what about the parents keeping in touch with their kids at camp? Most parents realize that children see things vastly differently than parents do. Most parents want to know that their child is fitting in, having fun and know specifics about what the child is doing.

Instead, most children say things like: "I'm having a good time" or "We went swimming." Hardly enough to satisfy a curious parent.

So enter the Internet to solve this dilemma.

One site I've found that is used by a number of camps is www.bunkone.com. It's typically used to post photographs of the children at camp. It's restricted to parents or guardians of children attending the camp.

Every so often, typically daily, the camp will upload photos to the website and parents can go look at them.

Bunkone.com offers to sell parents personalized items such as mouse pads, mugs, t-shirts and other products. I can't say I've ever bought anything through them, but it's an interesting business model.

It is great to see our children having fun at camp. My wife always looks to find our 9-year-old son and see if he's wearing a different shirt every day -- a pretty good indication that the camp is at least reminding him to change some of his clothes from time to time.

We also look to see how involved the children are and see what smiles we can see. Read Full Article 

It's a great way to receive far more information than just about any letter from our children would provide. And, while our children are at camp, we're not on a technology blackout.

Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: livingwithtechnology@mathias.org

Mark Mathias

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