Face scan summer camp

"This idea where you have to be happy all the time: That’s not real, and yet that’s what we’re chasing and what we’re looking for when we want all these pictures all the time.”

Face scan summer camp
(Photo by Ben White)

Full story: As summer camps turn on facial recognition, parents demand: More smiles, please

The companies selling the facial-recognition access advertise it as an easy solution to separation anxiety for always-on parents eager to capture every childhood memory, even when those memories don’t include them. One company, Bunk1, said more than 160,000 parents use its software every summer.

“It’s all about building this one-way window into the camper’s experience: The parent gets to see in, but the camper’s not distracted from what’s going on,” said Bunk1 president Rob Burns, a former camp counselor himself. “These are parents who are involved in everything their kid does, and that doesn’t go away when the kid is at camp.”

But some counselors argue that summer camp is one of the few places left in the world where children are expected to unplug — a cocoon for kids to develop real friendships, learn about themselves and get a first glimpse of the freedom and self-confidence they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. They worry kids will be robbed of that experience if they know it’s also being transmitted to family hundreds of miles away.

“How can our kids ever learn to be autonomous when we’re always tracking and monitoring them?” said Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist. “We want kids to embrace new experiences, to be great people, expand their social circles and take healthy risks. And we tamp down on them when we’re always over their shoulders, saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be watching.’ ”

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