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© Can Stock Photo Inc./michaeljung

© Can Stock Photo Inc./michaeljung

Social media can, and already have, revolutionized the way camp owners, directors, counselors, campers, and parents interact. These outlets are invaluable assets for fundraising, marketing, and, most importantly, relationship-building and communication. The vast majority of campers and staff likely have social-media accounts, which have become instrumental in retaining campers. In addition to stories and shared events, the excitement about returning to camp can now easily be spread in a matter of seconds to a vast number of people. Furthermore, one never knows when a simple message from a counselor to a camper who is on the fence about coming back can turn that child around and make him or her want to return. 

Unfortunately, these avenues of communication come at a price. Misuse of social media can lead to negative comments about the camp, cyber-bullying and harassment, and inappropriate comments and pictures. The exact legal risks are circumstantial and difficult to anticipate in light of the shortage of case law, especially as applied to camps. However, this article emphasizes that, for the current practical and economic climate which camps face, social media are a critical and necessary tool to maintain campers and continue to run a profitable organization. 

Camp directors must balance the important rewards of social media with the legal and practical risks. Therefore, every camp should have in place a social-media policy that considers those risks, but balances the risks and rewards in a way that makes the most sense, based on the camp’s particular needs. Because a stronger social media policy detracts from the effectiveness of potential rewards, and because a less stringent social media policy exposes the camp to greater risk and liability, no one policy fits all. The type of camp, age of campers, duration of program, and various other factors should be considered when deciding how strict a social media policy should be.  

Balancing Risks And Rewards Of Social Media 

A day camp with very young campers or a specialty camp with multiple short programs might not yield as great of a return from allowing campers and counselors to interact throughout the year, as the relationships may not have had an opportunity to develop to the same extent as an eight-week sleep-away camp. Thus, those camps

Camp directors must balance the important rewards of social media with the legal and practical risks. © Can Stock Photo Inc./tomwang

Camp directors must balance the important rewards

of social media with the legal and practical risks.

© Can Stock Photo Inc./tomwang

may choose a stricter social media policy that provides greater protection against potential liabilities. They might consider policies that prohibit staff members from engaging in certain interactions with campers, such as being friends on Facebook or engaging in private communications like instant messaging. Such measures can prevent inappropriate camper-staff interactions, and can shield employers from liability if policies are in place, and enforcement efforts have been made. However, overly restrictive policies, such as banning employees from having a social media account, run the risk of being found not legally enforceable. 

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