Hosting virtual activities with kids brings a new set of safety guidelines that camp directors must consider. Internet safety is a new frontier for most camp directors, and it can be a challenge ensuring your virtual camp is safe and secure for all attendees. Here are some best practices for creating a safe online virtual environment, while maximizing camper experience.
Teach Internet Safety
During the coronavirus pandemic, campers are trading in drop-offs for log-ins, and that can lead to unique safety challenges. For perhaps the first time, some young campers are navigating the Internet unsupervised. While your campers will spend their time with you logged in to a secure online portal, the uptick in screen time may lead campers to surf the Internet at other times throughout the day.
Ensure camper safety by teaching basic Internet safety guidelines to campers. At a minimum, your campers should know never to meet anyone they connect with online without their parents’ permission; never to click on unfamiliar links or download attachments from unfamiliar sources; and to avoid clicking on online ads.
Ask Parents to Establish Parental Controls
Virtual camp requires campers to be online for hours at a time. They may log on to camp from their own device or they may use a computer primarily used by other members of the household. No matter which device they use, ask parents to set up parental control tools on all devices in their home—this is a good rule of thumb whether campers are logging in for camp or not.
Parents should be encouraged to set age-appropriate filters to block harmful websites and images. They should also be asked to enable monitoring tools so they can keep track of what their kids are doing online. No matter how engaged you keep campers during their camp sessions, you unfortunately can’t control where kids wander on the Internet, and you want to make sure that parents are partnering with you to ensure their children’s safety.
Secure Personal Information
You would never share the personal information of your campers with unsecure sources, so make sure you aren’t inadvertently doing that via your online platform. To protect the identity of your campers, make sure they choose an internet-safe username that does not include personal information like their full name or birthday. Passwords, too, should be kept private among the camper and their parents.
You want to make sure that no one ends up attending your virtual camp that doesn’t belong there and the best way for you to do that is to require registration through ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager. Depending on the kind of online platform you use to host camp, only registered participants will receive a link to log in to your camp meeting. As the host, you’ll receive the names and email address of everyone who registered, so you can make sure that only campers are receiving the links required to attend.
Monitor or Lock Down the Chat Function
Many online platforms have a chat function that allows attendees to ask questions of the host or chat back and forth with each other. To minimize distraction, disable the chat function. If you want your campers to be able to chat, assign someone on your team to monitor the chatter and act as a moderator who can field questions, so the host doesn’t get overwhelmed while facilitating the camp session.
Control Screen Sharing
Screen sharing is a great feature of online meeting technology and will probably be a useful function for your camp leaders. Your campers, however, most likely won’t have a reason to share their screens. To prevent unwanted disruptions and privacy glitches, disable screen sharing permissions for all meeting attendees.
Ask Campers and Counselors Not to Post Photos
Camp is typically a technology-free space. Most campers and counselors aren’t used to being connected to their devices while at camp, and they may feel compelled to capture this unique time with pictures or screenshots. To protect the privacy of all campers, adopt a no photo policy that forbids campers and counselors from sharing photos online or on social media.
Watch Out for Bullying
Bullying is an unfortunate reality everywhere—including camp, but it can become secretive and pervasive when it happens on an online platform. Before virtual camp begins, make sure you have established a strict cyberbullying policy. Train camp counselors to be aware of the signs of cyberbullying and make sure that your campers have a safe way to report any cyberbullying they may experience.