Should we be sharing children's images online?
Recently, the French government announced its intention to protect children, in relation to the "over-sharing" of images online.
This got me thinking about the way in which we, in the education and care sector, use children's images online. This is something I have thought about often. I've wondered about the way in which we gather consent for photo sharing. I've questioned the "smiley-faces" over children's faces. I've reflected on my own use of images when producing these blog posts, or sharing on our social media accounts, and even when writing books or developing resources.
Why are we sharing?
There are a multitude of reasons that educators and services share images of children. Typically, they are joyful, heartfelt and genuine reasons. We want to show off the skills that the children are learning. We want to share the delight and wonder on their faces when they discover something new. We want to capture the moment. But let's be honest - a lot of the sharing we do, is about marketing our services. It's about appealing to new families and growing our community. It's about making our services financially viable (pretty important!). But, is at the expense of children's privacy?
What are we sharing?
A quick scroll through Instagram will reveal a lot of content and images of children. There will be videos of children playing, photographs of them engaged in creativity. Then there are the photos of children with smiley faces or stars across their faces - an attempt to conceal their identity, which although well intentioned, makes me feel oddly uncomfortable, almost like we have erased the child.
What impact does it have?
While we might be well-intentioned in our sharing of children's images, unfortunately the world has dark places and dark beings, and images of children are at risk of being misused once they are on the internet. The e-safety commissioner website has some useful information about the risks of this, and how we can protect children. We may think "I'm not posting their name, so they won't be identified" or "but I got parent permission" or "but their parents share heaps of photos online", but we need to think about our role in protecting children.
What can we do instead?
In the last few years, I have been trying to take more images where children's faces are not visible - images of hands busy manipulating clay, or feet climbing in the trees. But we don't always get it right. We've been sharing images from our OSHC services and TimberNook program in recent months, and there are some with faces visible. Yes, we have parental consent. Often, there have been conversations with children "can I take a photo?" but I still think there is room for change here. I'm opening this conversation up to some reflection with our team in the coming weeks, and I encourage you to do the same.
This about your social media policy - take time to consider how it ensures the safety and privacy of children through the use of their images, how it outlines clear parameters or guidelines for the taking and sharing of images.
Let me know your thoughts about this - I understand it's a confronting topic and there might be strong feelings either way, but starting a reflective dialogue is important. Children deserve it.