Today was sports day at my children’s school. It was a fun day and they did really well. I took some great pics and was all ready to publish them in action on Facebook – didn’t really think about it being a problem.
Then a text arrived which stated that no photos could be put on to the internet at all.
This immediately raised my heckles. How dare anyone tell me not to publish photographs that I had taken of my children with my camera! Angry I fumed on Facebook.
I checked up with the Information Commission’s website which suggests that some schools do go too far – saying parents cannot video or photograph children taking part in school events and that’s not in the spirit of Data Protection.
Schools, it said, should not hide behind this as it does not cover photography for private use.
But what is private use? As far as I can see it doesn’t say ‘don’t put these photographs on the internet’ – though education guidance does say that.
Schools get very upset with mums like me. I do question things which seem to invade my freedom. Just because a headteacher says it is so – is it? just because a lawyer says it is so – is it? Why should we just say ‘yes miss, no miss’ when we’re adults?
I’ve filmed a lot in schools and the permission process is extremely rigorous – rightly so. I’ve often had to film around one or two children whose images cannot be shown and that’s fine. Some children need to be protected for clear, identifiable reasons.
I took the opportunity to talk to some other mums. One, a teacher, said she was happy and gave the impression that I was being like a stubborn child not to bow to this edict about personal sports day photos.
‘We are lucky,’ she said ‘that the school allows us to take pictures’.
Another mum said she could see both sides – there are several children in the school who cannot be filmed/photographed for their own protection. This I do get.
Using a photograph of your child, with someone who needs to be protected in the background, and should not be shown – well, I can see the logic in that.
However if I can crop the pictures and just show my children I can see nothing wrong with that decision as a parent, if I wish to publish. Of course, I do ask my children’s permission as they are old enough to be consulted about such things.
Of course all of this caution is often about protecting children from child sex offenders – who find the internet a fantastic place to hunt and hide in secret.
But does that mean that we have to abandon common sense and never put any photographs of our children on the net? Are we allowing these individuals (and there are more than most people think) to rule our freedom online? Should we?
My gut feeling is no. Why should we? Provided we do not reveal too much personal information, should we be that paranoid? Isn’t that giving these people more power?
And then a friend sent me a personal message. This friend reminded me that a former colleague is currently awaiting trial on various charges of child abuse including rape – someone that we were both connected to on the internet.
It brought me up short. This friend had had more contact with this man – but even the thought that someone could be looking at my children from afar and thinking vile thoughts was awful.
I‘d allowed this individual to enter my internet world – this was someone I’d known in ‘real’ life and hadn’t thought twice about connecting with.
I cannot pass comment on this individual as he’s innocent until proved guilty. However this friend has now removed all photographs of her children from the internet as she’s so shocked at this turn of events.
What have I concluded? Truth, I still feel uncomfortable about being told what to do with my own photographs.
I’m happy to not show others when I don’t have their permission to publish but I don’t want my natural actions restricted by the phantoms of gross human beings who want to prey on children for sexual gratification.
I do feel that there will come a time when social media sites will have to be both public and personal – it will be interesting
to see how these definitions evolve over time.
What do you think?