Should we put sports’ day photos on social media sites?

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.

school racing track (grass)

can we put sports' day photos on the internet? should we?


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’.

Are we?

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?

Are you having a twitter? Even when in court?

There’s been much debate in media circles about the growing use of Twitter in court rooms.



Attending court, especially if it’s a high profile case, is interesting and bizarrely exciting. So it’s not surprising that people involved might want to send messages out there to talk about what’s going on.

When I give talks about working in the media, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is – what interesting court cases have you attended? Any murders? The answers are ‘loads’ and ‘yes’.



Clearly I’m a huge social media fan and I like Twitter and Facebook and talking online – but one does have to be careful.


Journalists in court will hear many, many things that they are legally not allowed to be made public – sometimes things which are so harrowing that they don’t want to make it public.
I know this was true in the Fred & Rosemary West case as a close friend of mine covered this story from beginning to end. Journalists came together to make a conscious decision not to report on some very distressing details even when they were allowed to do so.
Reporting legally from a court in the UK requires specialist knowledge and training in how courts work and what can and cannot be said.


In my experience, good journalists will have more detailed knowledge of this than the occasional barrister/solicitor. I have had a stand-up row with at least one barrister about my freedom to attend a hearing in a family court – I won.
Qualified journalists know this stuff and, if they are unsure about any part of a process, they know who to ask.
Being in contempt of court is no small matter. It can lead to imprisonment and could cause a case to collapse altogether.


But Twitter almost allows us to become ‘citizen journalists’ and even lawyers like to have a Tweet.


These days with far fewer journalists in employment, quite often there won’t be a reporter in court so anyone can technically ‘have a go’.

Now being a journalist is not rocket science, we don’t have special rights, we are simply representatives of the public.


But courts are a special case. Some people involved are protected eg. Rape victims, children, those under witness protection, victims of blackmail. These names are often read out in court and put on the charge sheet – but journalists cannot make them public. Would you know that?
Court orders are often put in place in a case (involving children for example) at a preliminary hearing, but if you go along to a court case in the public gallery for a full hearing later on, you might not know this.


Ignorance is no defence – but who would think of checking what court orders are in force if they are not journalists? Would you know where to look for a list of relevant court orders or who to ask?

And if a lawyer says ‘bear in mind there’s a Section 39 order in place for this defendant/witness’ , how many people know what that means? (must not name child, give address or school).
I’m not saying that use of Twitter in court rooms should be banned, I could never say that  – I’m just saying be very careful.
Judges are more and more aware of social media risks around court cases now. They will warn jurors not to discuss details of a case and include social media sites within their warning. But this will not extend to the public gallery, where people may come and go all of the time.
Some commentators on the media industry believe that the use of Twitter around court proceedings will lead to live TV coverage. In some ways such explicit exposure could be seen to be good in terms of punishment for a guilty defendant, in others it’s even more harrowing for vulnerable witnesses or for those who are later found to be innocent.


The key message is this – be careful, be balanced and use common sense. It’s not in anyone’s interest for a court case to collapse because of a Tweet or two. 

image of black bird with red face walking with something in beak

Having a twitter in court could cost you dear.....


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