I could never be accused of not having an opinion. And I usually can't keep it to myself either! Last week I found myself caught up in some "heated online discussion" over the use of a meme that I (and a great many others) found disrespectful to children. I won't share that image as I found it stomach churning, but essentially it was an image that was taken of a child in a potentially humiliating situation and had been captioned "humorously" and shared online.
I wasn't the only one to speak up and say that I found the image disturbing, disrespectful and in breach of the rights of the child. I was impressed with the numerous educators and early childhood professionals who spoke up and articulated thoughtfully their concerns. Yet time and time again, those who spoke up were told to "get a sense of humour" "stop being so PC" and "just chill out." So... should we just chill out?
I like to think that I have a pretty good sense of humour and I often think that in tricky situations, if we don't laugh we will cry! I have three young children and have worked with children for 14 years... there has been plenty of laughter. But to be told that I need to get a sense of humour or chill out because I don't find a photo of a child in a humiliating situation funny, really frustrates me.
It was positive to see so many professionals argue key points such as:
- Has the child given their consent to have that photograph taken or shared?
- Would your first response to an unwell child or child in a tricky situation be "I'll go get the camera!"?
- If this were in a centre (it was hard to be sure exactly where the photo was taken) and the parent saw this image, how would they feel about?
- What message did the photographer send to the other children in the space?
But for as many of these comments, there were just as many that suggested that this concern was misplaced and that these professionals were taking things too seriously.
I have to wonder... why wouldn't you take what we do seriously? Why wouldn't you take the rights of children seriously? Why would you think that it is unusual to be concerned about the emotional wellbeing of young children? Or the improper use of a child's image?
I was happy to have professional debate about it - we don't all have to agree on everything and I think situations like this are a great opportunity to learn and grow in our professional attitudes. But it appears that these types of posts are proving ever more divisive, splitting the early childhood community into two distinct "camps" which I find really upsetting. Surely we are all here for the same cause?
So how do we move forward? Well for me, it involved removing myself from a particular facebook group that seems to not be open to professional debate and instead becomes a "place of huffiness" and I am instead focusing my energy into places where debate and discussion is valued. I will continue to encourage the educators that I meet during training and consultancy, to be reflective and open to other opinions and ideas. And for me personally - I will continue to grow. I will continue to research, to build my knowledge bank, to ensure that when I do have these professional debates I can articulate my opinion in a respectful, informed manner.
And no...when it comes to the rights of children, I won't "chill out!"
Providing inspirational professional development opportunities for Early Childhood Educators