MY son recently started at a new preschool and the first thing I did was advise the teachers I do not consent to any photos of my son being distributed digitally by them.
And I'm not just talking about Facebook.
I'm talking about their student reports, e-newsletters, even the disk of photos they might burn for each family at the end of the year.
Because here is my concern:
Say the school takes a photo of my son and another child playing. They use the photo in the report they send to that other child's parents. That other child's parents then think 'hey, what a great pic, I'll save that and share it on Facebook'. And just like that, my son's photo is out there on social media without my consent or knowledge to end up God knows where.
And this is what scares me - my son's photo ending up God knows where.
Because not long ago the office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner found half of the material on certain paedophilia websites had been sourced or stolen from parents innocently posting images of their families online.
They found the photos were of children doing every day activities, they were not exploitative in any way it was the comments attached to them by strangers that sexualised them.
And they would be catalogued in 'themes' such as "kids at beach", "nice boys play in river" or "gymnasts".
I could say this might not happen to my photos. But I can't guarantee that.
But I can if I don't upload any photos of my son - at all.
I know lots of parents do share photos of their kids on social media and each to their own. If you want to share photos of your child on Facebook, go for it. But don't share a photo that includes my son in it. Please.
This is another huge battle for me.
There have been occasions where we've been at say a show. My son is jumping on a jumping castle. There are other kids on the jumping castle so their parents start taking photos and filming them. Fine. But the issue is my son is in those photos and videos. And what are they going to do with them? Where do they end up?
I don't know. I honestly don't know. And this absolutely terrifies me.
So when my son started at this new preschool and I told the teachers I did not want photos taken of him they started asking questions.
Could they take photos and use them in his report? Yes - as long as photos of him weren't used in other children's reports.
Could they take photos and display them in the book at the reception desk? No - what's to stop a parent seeing a pic and taking a screenshot of it on their phone? Bit of a stretch but you never know. Better safe than sorry.
Could they put photos of him on the disk they burn for each parent at the end of the year? Absolutely not.
How will I feel when he's involved in say the Easter Bonnet parade and all the parents are there filming it? Horrified. Sick to my stomach. I'd rather he didn't participate.
But that's not fair on him then is it?
And this is what it comes to. How am I going to stop photos of him taken at parties, sporting events, school activities being shared online?
It's a battle I am going to have to fight for the next 10+ years. And it is only going to get worse.
Thankfully his school has shown a lot of interest in my plight and reasons. So much so they have asked me to come to the next P&C meeting and talk about children and social media and give them some recommendations on what they can do.
So here's what I'm going to suggest:
- Educate all the parents in the school community about the dangers.
- Make them aware other parents have not consented to photos of their children being distributed online.
- Have a clause in the school policy that prevents parents from sharing photos clearly identifying other children on social media.
- Reiterate these concerns prior to school activities where parents will be taking photos/videos of their children and other students.
- Have a clause in the school policy that permits parents from reproducing photos taken by the school without permission (e-newsletters, reports).
What do you think? Are these suggestions fair? Am I being over the top or do I have the right to control where my child's image ends up?
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below.
Alexia Purcell is News Regional Media's social media editor.