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Opinion : Should the rules on photographing children in school be tightened?

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It’s every parents nightmare to discover that pictures of their child have ended up in the hands of a paedophile.

Indeed only the other day, while partaking in my lunch in the town centre, a friend approached me and expressed their concerns at the current rules and procedures in place regarding the taking of pictures of children in schools.

As my friend explained, before a child starts school every parent is given a form which asks the parent to give consent for the school to take pictures of their child.

The ‘official version’ of the form, effective in Buckinghamshire, can be found by clicking here.

The form asks Yes/No permission for the following :

  1. May we use your child’s photograph in the school prospectus and other printed publications that we produce for promotional purposes?
  2. May we use your child’s image on our website?
  3. May we record your child’s image on video or webcam?
  4. Are you happy for your child to appear in the media?
  5. Do you wish your child to be named?

With regard to question 4 there is a preceding paragraph which states :

“Photographs or film footage by parents or guardians of their children at school events is permitted under an exemption in the Data protection Act. There is also a journalistic exemption with regard to the media and occasionally a pupil’s images may appear in local or national newspapers, or on televised news programmes. Please indicate if you are content for your child to appear in the media. If you are not we will try to keep your child out of the photographs. It is our policy not to name children without the consent of the parents or child.

However many parents, especially the less technically minded, may not fully understand the consequences of the implications of the questions they are being asked. Indeed once a picture is in the public domain there is very little that can be done and if it’s on the internet then anyone in the world can potentially see it.

In this modern age of online pedophiles, social media, the dark web and other e-nasties surely allowing pictures of real children in real schools to be published is a dreadful risk to the safety of the children?

So why on earth are schools even asking the above questions?

Surely the schools should ban all taking of pictures of children? The only exception being for in-house security purposes.

There may be a ‘journalistic exemption’, which incidentally was meant to be a general exemption for purposes of all journalism and not just pictures of children in schools, however there is no obligation whatsoever for schools to let journalists and commercial photographers onto their premises.

Back in the 1940’s and 50’s it was generally accepted that pictures of children starting school would appear in newspapers however times and society have changed.

Once a class picture is published in print and on sale at a newsagent anyone can buy it – even registered sex offenders.

In my  opinion a publication featuring class pictures of real school children is no more than a paedophiles directory. What’s more it allows sex offenders to know which children are at which schools and if they become infatuated with one (maybe even your child) they know where to go to abduct them.

Is it not the case that the only reason the media publish supplements featuring class pictures is to sell more copies for their own profit? Essentially once published in the media is it not the case that the children (through their pictures) are being exploited to bolster the grubby profits of the publisher?

Then of course there is the issue of parents making videos at school events such as at sports day, etc… Apparently the audience at school events can take pictures and use video cameras providing the images are for ‘their own personal use‘.

How does the school know that a member of the audience with a video camera is not a sex offender? Of course any images such a vile person would make would be ‘for their own personal use’ so their purpose would meet the definition! This is outrageous.

If the schools want pictures featuring children to appear on their website then surely they should hire professional child models rather than cutting costs by whipping out a digital camera and taking their own pictures?

These days everyone has access to a digital camera and the role of a school/visiting photographer is surely obsolete?

In my opinion the aforementioned ‘consent form’ should be replaced with a simple statement similar to the following :

“We take the safety and security of your child seriously. We will NEVER take pictures of your child or allow external photographers, parents or anyone else to take any pictures whatsoever of your child at this school. Any member of staff found to have engaged in or facilitated such activity will be dismissed from service immediately and reported to the police. All children featured on our website and social media will be professional actors who have agreed to appear.”

All it takes is a consent form that isn’t properly filled in and one visit from the ‘school/visiting photographer’ and that’s it – your child’s picture may eventually end up on the hard drive of a paedo.

Do you not agree that the risks far outweigh the benefits?

Schools do not have to allow the taking of pictures yet they do. In my opinion this is a disgrace and needlessly exposes young children to the dangers of the modern world from a very early age.

What do you think?

My blogs are published every Tuesday and Friday evening around 8.00pm here on the WycombeToday.com website.

You can also follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ivor.wycombe or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Ivor_Wycombe.

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