Summer camps fear MySpace

Let’s see. Last week it was employers not getting it, so this week it must be summer camps.

Camps say they are increasingly concerned about being identified in photographs or comments on these sites, even innocuously. They worry about online predators tracking children to camp and about their image being tarnished by inappropriate Internet juxtapositions — a mention, say, of the camp on a site that also has crude language or sexually suggestive pictures.

“This is probably the No. 1 issue facing all camp programs,” said Norman E. Friedman, a partner at AMSkier Insurance, a major camp insurer.

Seriously, if MySpace is your biggest issue, you really don’t have much to complain about.

The long and short of it is that the camps are worried about predators (you know, the ones that are aparently over MySpace, and are so much more of a threat than anywhere else. Because there’s never been a camp counselor who was a predator. Yeah). They’re also worried about marketting “What if someone portrays the camp in a bad way? We better stop everyone from talking about our camp!”, and camp counselors with “inappropriate” stuff on their MySpace pages (see the post from last week I linked to, a lot of this is the same issue).

It’s so hard to judge, but I honestly wonder if this isn’t the largest generation gap ever? The story distills down to “Kids are sharing, adults are freaking out about it”. The adults, for lack of a better phrase, simply don’t get it. They’re used to top-down hierarchial control, and they’re baffled by the bottom-up nature of social networking. You can’t exercise total control over where your camp’s name appears. Someone with “inappropriate” material on their MySpace page doesn’t make them a bad person; it just means that kids are sharing this stuff more openly now than they did in generations past.

If I were running any kind of program like this, I’d be thrilled that people networked around the camp community. The fact that you can’t control it is part of what makes it so appealing to these kids in the first place; it’s not the end of the world.

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