Early childhood centres cautious about kids' photos going online

Separate public and whanau Facebook pages are part of the solution for Hamilton's City Limits Childcare, says manager ...
KELLY HODEL/FAIRFAX NZ

Separate public and whanau Facebook pages are part of the solution for Hamilton's City Limits Childcare, says manager Pauline Milroy.

Kindy teachers are becoming the photo-police to stop pictures of children going online without parental consent.

And it's not just about permission for centres to use the images.

Parents who take photos of their children should make sure no other kids are recognisable if they plan to share it with online friends.

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A complaint about a centre posting pictures of children to its Facebook page was one of 10 upheld in the Waikato in 2014, according to information released under the Official Information Act.

The photos were taken down and the centre, which the Ministry of Education declined to name, was given training on "social media awareness".

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Parents taking snaps at early childhood services need to check before they put photos of other people's kids online, ...
KELLY HODEL/FAIRFAX NZ

Parents taking snaps at early childhood services need to check before they put photos of other people's kids online, says NetSafe's Lee Chisholm.

At Waikato Kindergarten Association, there were strict protocols and families have an extra chance to opt out before photo-generating events, chief executive Maree Stewart said.

"We inform our families that something like [a Member of Parliament visiting] is going to happen so ... they have got the opportunity to say, you know what? Tomorrow when Mary Lou comes, I don't want my child, if there are any photo opportunities, to be involved."

Teachers also go on high alert when parents get snapping, such as when they bring a birthday cake in.

"They want to take photos of those memories for that child. And you feel as if you're a little bit of a killjoy. Oh, you can't do that," Stewart said.

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"You just have to be very, very tight on it ... It's people's children, isn't it?"

Even before social media, there had been a per centage of parents who were against images of their children being used, Hamilton's City Limits Childcare manager Pauline Milroy said.

"I certainly think it's a can of worms," she said.

"We were probably one of the last centres in Hamilton to have [a Facebook page] simply because of my anxiety."

The centre now has a public page, but staff avoid posting identifiable pictures of the children.

"I don't think parents put their kids' photos from City Limits on their Facebook pages because they have access to the things we put up," she said.

It is important to think about what uploading a picture means, NetSafe operations manager Lee Chisholm said.

"Any photo anywhere online can be copied. You can't stop that happening," she said.

Centres must clearly tell parents and caregivers about where and how they will use photos, including whether there will be no names, first names or full names with them.

And parents also need to think twice before pressing upload, much as they might want to share their kids' milestones.

Photos from an outing or birthday party shouldn't go online without permission from the parents of other children recognisable in them, Chisholm said.

"If that goes up on a Facebook page and someone else sees it and says, I saw a photo of your little Sally today. She looked like she was having fun. And the parent goes, What? That can be disturbing for a parent."

In some cases, children can't be identified for their own safety.

A complaint about photos going online was one of 10 upheld against Waikato early childhood centres in 2014.

There were 431 early learning services operating in the Waikato that year, the Ministry of Education said.

Topics of complaint included a child leaving the premises, the insistence a child attend five mornings a week instead of three, teacher behaviour and child-teacher ratios.

Nine of the upheld complaints were against education and care services and one was about a Playcentre.

In 2013, there were five complaints upheld for the Waikato.

The Ministry of Education investigates complaints and can take further action, including putting the service on a provisional licence, providing extra support, follow-up audits or an action plan.

If you want more information or advice on what to do when it comes to photos of preschoolers online, contact NetSafe on 0508 NETSAFE or queries@netsafe.org.nz

 - Stuff

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