Sometimes, the connection between my childhood and that of my children and their children seems as if it should span hundreds of years rather than decades. That is certainly how I felt reading an article guiding parents who are considering allowing the use of facial recognition technology by their children’s camps. After all, who wants to scroll through dozens of pictures of other people’s children in order to find pictures of one’s own offspring? The technology would allow parents to immediately zoom in on their child as the counselors and administrators document activities throughout the day.
To be sure, as the article mentions, there are privacy concerns. Will others have access to the pictures, what if they are stolen, etc., etc. I want to raise a different concern. Do our children really need us looking in at every moment of their lives? Maybe, any pictures at all beyond the official bunk shot are actually an intrusion that we should reject.
In the quaint, ancient times in which I went to camp, our lives there were separate from our lives at home. Once or twice a week, camps demanded postcards or letters to our parents as the price of admission to dinner. Some kids wrote one sentence, others wrote missives. We did not have to worry that our disappointment at being the last one picked for softball or our elation at winning color war would belong to anyone other than ourselves. Camp was a place where we could break out of molds, explore new interests and flex our personalities. It was a medium of growth partially because only we chose what to share with our parents. Did a “non-sports” kid spend extra time shooting baskets? Did a quiet dreamer try out for the play? Maybe the picky eater devoured everything in sight when no other options were available and fresh air and exercise stimulated her appetite. No one was going to ask us about inconsistencies with year-round behavior.
We read of parents calling college professors and even bosses to advocate for their children. We read of twenty-somethings unable to transition to adulthood. We see how many people live their lives with an eye to how they look on social media rather than on who they are. There are all sorts of technical concerns with using face-recognition technology, especially as it relates to children. Yet, it might still be damaging even if it is 100% secure.