Email in camp?!

Technology can alleviate camper homesickness and parent anxiety, but is there no place a kid can get away?

What could be more low-tech than spending a few weeks at summer camp— canoeing, horseback riding, making lanyards? But for better or for worse, email has arrived at camp and the instant gratification of the outside world is now mingling with pastoral summer camps, reports the Washington Post.

Trading in the traditional postage stamp for the immediacy of the Internet, campers' hand-written letters are scanned and sent to parents' inboxes. Technology companies such as Bunk 1 also provide photo galleries and organiz emails. Ecamp offers similar services, as well as video messages with webcams. Camp Channel Inc. sets up cameras for online streaming video of camp activities.

"Parents have really enjoyed being to able hear back from campers on the same day," said Andy Adams, the director of Camp Staunton Meadows, a small co-ed summer camp in Clover, Va. "By the time parents get home from work, replies are in their inbox telling them what their camper did this morning or how the ropes course was this afternoon."
While Email at camp may seem like a fairly benign addition to camp life, it does have it detractors. Naysayers comment that, although it can allieviate homesickness for campers and anxiety for parents, constant contact defeats fostering independence and keeps kids from playing in the great outdoors.

Most camps don't offer access to computers and tell kids from the outset to leave cellphones, laptops and iPods at home. Digital cameras are generally allowed.

"I think there is great value in bringing kids away from things they have the other 10 or 11 months out of the year. Because the possibility exists to write a letter every day, some parents are writing four or five e-mails" a day, said Christopher Thurber, a psychologist who is spending his 26th summer at Camp Belknap in New Hampshire.