A study released by the Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of Facebook users strongly dislike others posting pictures of their underage children without permission. Other Facebook users feel just as strongly that they should be able to post pictures of their children, regardless of who else is in them.
Douglas Holmes, 30, was furious when his 4-year-old daughter’s school asked that a video of her in a school play be taken down. The video was of his daughter, Emmi-Rai, playing the role of innkeeper.
Holmes’ partner, Lisa Evans, had recorded the video to share with parents who could not attend the play. Evans posted the video on Facebook. The next day, a teacher asked her to take it down.
“My partner doesn’t usually post videos on Facebook,” said Holmes. “But some parents couldn’t go to the play because of work. A friend of ours couldn’t make it and we managed to catch her daughter in our video so she posted the video.
“I was very angry when she came back from the school and told me they wanted her to take it down from her personal profile. We should be allowed to share our daughter’s experience with other people if we want to. She wasn’t offending anybody but she was asked to remove it. We have removed it just in case they decided to take any further action.”
Evans was equally annoyed.
“We weren’t told specifically by the school not to put up any videos but politely asked if we could refrain from doing so – but it certainly wasn’t an order,” she said. “I never usually post videos – I only did it because a lot of parents had work commitments and couldn’t make the play. One of the mums was really grateful I’d posted it up and she thanked me because she hadn’t been able to make it.”
Evans posted the video on Monday. The next morning, when she took her daughter to school, a teacher asked her to take it down.
“It was then that her teacher told me she had been made aware of the video and asked me to remove it because she was in it – for just three seconds,” Evans said. “She did not mention the children or child protection – if she had of course I would have removed it immediately.
“My Facebook settings are extremely protected and private – only my close friends can see anything I post,” she added. “The whole thing is totally crazy – at the end of the day the school website has a picture of every child in the school and that is open to anyone to see. I really don’t know what all the fuss is about.”
A school spokesman explained the reasoning behind the restrictions. “At Ynysboeth Primary School a significant number of parents or [caretakers have] specifically requested that their children’s images do not appear on social media,” he said. “If just one parent or [caretaker] objects to group photography, then the head teacher does not allow it to happen.
“Schools should receive the written permission of all of their parents to allow filming or photography of their children in school,” he continued.
He explained that many of the children the school works with are in foster care or the adoption process. “There are children in our schools who are protected by means of court orders and under no circumstances can the identity or location of these children be revealed. To do so could expose them to unacceptable risk.
“The local authority and schools work closely with adoptive and foster carers to ensure the well-being and safeguarding of their children and that is why headteachers may find it necessary to ban photography or film in such an event,” he said. “This is a decision we fully support for the benefit of the child/children in question.”
Adoption UK said, “without proper precautions children can be exposing details of their lives to anyone who logs on.”
Many schools have begun prohibiting photography or videos during school events. According to a survey, only 40 percent of polled schools allow complete camera freedom. A third require parents to sign forms stating they will not share the pictures on social media before they are allowed to use cameras.
“Every parent has their own parenting style and that includes expectations for privacy,” said Marsali Hancock, president and CEO of iKeepSafe.org, a website dedicated to encouraging safe online practices. “This father wants to share his child’s experience but does not realize that his sharing impacts the privacy of the others included. Because it is a school program it involved students, teachers, staff members and parent volunteers.”
She suggests parents only post pictures of their own children or, if this is not possible, “Take the time to blur or edit out the personally identifiable information on the video.”
“It’s also okay to tell the parent who posted the photo that you don’t want them to do that again,” Hancock said. She added that if a picture of your child is on Facebook without your consent, you can contact them and they will likely remove it.
Two other facts the Pew Research study uncovered: 36 percent of Facebook users strongly dislike seeing people share too much information about themselves, and 36 percent strongly dislike seeing others write about or post pictures of themselves without permission.
Facebook is far from universal, however: 57 percent of American adults and 73 percent of teenagers use the site, with 64 percent of them using it at least once a day.
Still, with Facebook utilized all over the world, Oregonian parents may want to pay attention to their children’s school rules regarding cameras.