In our digital age, sharing photos of our children is a common occurrence. From birth and right through school, parents share every aspect of their life with family and friends. In fact, according to research conducted by cybersecurity company McAfee, 30% of Australian parents use social media to post a photo or video of their child at least once a week, with 12% posting at least once a day. This was despite 71% understanding that the image might end up in the wrong hands.
A 2017 University of Florida study found that “when children appear in Facebook photos, 45.2% of the posts also mention the child’s first name, and 6.2% reference the child’s date of birth”. On Instagram, it was worse: 63% of parents referenced their child’s first name in at least one photo in their stream and 27% of parents mentioned their child’s date of birth. Almost one in five shared both pieces of information.
It’s not just the parents themselves who are keen on sharing images of their child – photos are a big part of a school’s activities – from the daily photo at childcare to establishing student identity at high school, from school newsletters about students’ achievements to institutional marketing material.
As parents, we’re responsible for protecting them until they are old enough to make their own decisions about their online presence. So how can we hope to protect our children from security risks when their world is full of situations where their photo is being constantly shared?
The first step is to gain a better understanding of what correct photographic consent looks like, so you can push back if you’re asked to sign a consent form that is in any way coersive. It is becoming more common for educational institutions to issue a permission slip upon enrolment in a school or childcare centre, asking parents if it is okay for them to photograph their child. Please be aware that not all permission slips are made equal.
For example, schools should never ask parents to sign a consent form that lasts forever. Consent must always have a use-by date, because a lot can change in a short space of time. Schools should obtain fresh consent from parents and guardians regularly – once a year should be the bare minimum.
In a similar vein, push back if your child’s school attempts to ‘bundle’ consent into one form. You are not truly consenting If you’re being asked to do it all at once, or to tick one box. Instead, schools must provide the opportunity for parents to have greater choice and control over what the school can do with their child’s images.
This is because family needs and individual circumstances are constantly shifting, and a situation that was once okay may no longer be. Unless schools can consistently renew consent for specific situations, they risk exposing children to serious harm.
Always speak up if you ever feel like consent is being taken from you in a way that could be considered coercive. If your school is banning children from enrolling or entering an event unless their parents have signed an ‘all-in’ consent form, for example, then they’re not collecting true consent.
In cases like these, parents might feel pressured to sign the form, even if they have legitimate and serious reasons for not allowing their child to be photographed. Instead, schools should always make it clear that deciding not to give consent will have no bearing on your child’s experience.
Navigating the digital world will always be a complex task – for adults and children alike. But if you get image consent right you’ve fought a big part of the battle in protecting your child’s digital footprint and will help educate them to become more responsible digital citizens in the future.
About Colin Anson, CEO and co-founder of pixevety:
Colin Anson is a digital entrepreneur, and the CEO and co-founder of child image protection and photo storage solution, pixevety https://pixevety.com/
In 2012, Colin saw an opportunity to create a unique business within his area of passion, photography. He witnessed first-hand the potential risks and harm the mismanagement of photos can have on children. And he became an advocate for protecting every parent’s right to determine how their child’s photo is used, and protecting every child’s right to safety and digital privacy. After learning of the minefield of privacy laws and the daily stress for schools in managing and sharing the photos of every single student, Colin decided to do something about it. And pixevety was born.