When should images of children be put on the net?
The boys and girls I was filming on the beach were mostly pre-teens.
Where are you going to show it? a girl asked. ” On You Tube” I replied. The kids screamed so loudly with delight the sound on my camera distorted.
I didnt have permission from these kids parents to film them but it was not until the following day that it occurred to me that this might be a problem.
Rewind. Earth Hour. Festivities are held on Whale Beach, close to where I live in Sydney. It is a family affair - picnic, music and a procession along the beach with each of several dozen kids carrying a small lantern they have made themselves. Im a filmmaker so I turn up with my camera.
The procession is led by drummers, followed by a large white translucent paper whale lit from inside then the kids with their lanterns. Beautiful. The kids have a ball. Many perform for my camera silly home movie stuff.
As I edit the footage I wonder: Can I put this on the internet without asking the permission of the parents? There were hundreds of people on the beach. There is no way I could have got permission from the parents of all the kids I filmed. Was I making a mountain out of a mole hill in even considering that there was an ethical question to be dealt with here? After all, it was a community event in a public place. On the other hand there may be some parents who do not want images of their children available on the internet for all to see. I imagined being confronted in the street by an angry parent asking me why I had posted an image of their child on the interent.
I decided to ask some friends what they thought I should do post or not post. (I’d already made up my mind but I was interested to find out what others thought.)
I just did a quick survey mum friends and they all thought if filmed from a distance and kids indistinguishable fine but if you can see faces they would beshocked to find their child on You Tube. A video record of a community event shot from a distance with indistinguishable faces? That’d be exciting.
One 28 year old expressed a view that seems common of his generation: “Why would parents objects to footage of their children appearing on You Tube? It is the modern digital age and this stuff is just common place. The kids can sit around, film each other on their mobile phones, then instantly upload it to You Tube themselves anyway. There are literally millions of videos on You Tube uploaded by random people which contain footage of other random people that they don’t know, so what, who cares, that is the world now, the only time it would ever be a problem is if the footage is damaging, or offensive in some way, otherwise, I think people are just going to be excited to see themselves on the internet.”
Another Gen Xer was more blunt: “God, I don’t see why those kids shouldn’t get to enjoy seeing themselves on ‘TV” just cause someone might jack off to it…. what has the world come to? Stupid. I wish the pedophile police would GO GET F****... instead of ruining everyone’s normal lives with their paranoid bullshit.”
And this from the father of teenage kids. “It is necessary to have the parent’s permission before you film such an event. Parents should have the right of control over images taken of their children. ” It would have been impossible for anyone on that beach NOT to have seen me filming as I used a small sun gun to illuminate all that I filmed. If any parent had a problem with me filming their children they could have let me know quick fast.
One parent said she would refuse point blank under any circumstances allowing her children to be filmed on the beach because, as she says, video it is a re-usable commodity that can be
re-sold to anyone.
This was countered by: “If everyone was that precious about reproductions of their image, documentaries, news, community videos, etc would be impossible to make. That would be a
shame. A lot of valuable stuff would not exist.”
From an aging baby boomer: It seems to me that we are all suffering from “Jaws” syndrome. Since Jaws we can’t ever swim nonchalantly again. The same goes for “kids
pictures” being posted on the Internet. While it is likely that there is no wart-covered perv lurking ready to pounce on every child’s image on the net, we’ve been shown there might be. Fear is insidious and every new story is chilling.”
One respondent, perhaps suffering a dose of Jaws Syndrome wrote: “Even with parental approval, I believe some material should not be posted on the “net” because it might be
downloaded by pedophiles. Parents, even with the best of intentions, don’t always make wellinformed/wise decisions. I know, I’m a parent and a grandparent!”
A note of caution from a photographer friend: “Beware of self censorship and fear. When philistines and fearful people control the boundaries - all our creative freedoms are in
From the father of a pre-teen girl: “This crazy modern world of permissions and legislation, Legalities and libel! What a drag! Just put it up and see what happens.”
And finally, from a friend viewing it from a legal perspective: “I wouldn’t publish the shots for fear of liability issues if any parent takes issue.”
Having decided not to post the video I’m still not sure if it was the right decision to make.
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