Cann Hall Primary School, in Clacton-on-Sea, is blanking out children’s faces on pictures published on its website “for safety reasons”, has come in for a lot of criticism, including the NSPCC, who said the school “may have gone too far”.
Headteacher Clare Reece said blurring children’s faces underlined warnings the school gave about the potential dangers for youngsters on the internet. She said photographs of school teams and groups were published on the school website but with faces blurred. In recent weeks, because of a “computer glitch”, the school also covered the children’s heads with cartoon smiley faces, to prevent them from being identified, because blurring them had not been possible.
Chris Cloke, the NSPCC’s head of child protection awareness, said: “Anyone posting photos of children on the internet needs to carefully consider the risk this poses to children. However, in this case the impulse to protect children’s identity may have gone too far.”
He said schools and organisations working with children had other options. “Schools and other organisations can take sensible precautions that strike a balance between protection and celebrating children’s achievements,” he said. “For example, placing photos of children in a password-protected area of their website only accessible by staff and children.”
Lots of people have been quite critical of the school, and whilst I understand that the school has gone too far, I think there is something about the need to consider how we protect the identity of children, especially through the use of images. One place where I worked used to edit all the photos it published and translated them into colour cartoon photos, which was cool, but again didn’t show the clear memories that were being created in the groups. I think placing photos in a password-protected area again is difficult to maintain. The crucial issue is permission, as part of our annual permission forms, parents give (or don’t give) permission for images of their child to be used in our publicity, including notice boards, the local media and the web. I think another issue is ensuring that the images are pictures of a group of children, and don’t unless imperative include the names of the children. Those are some of my thoughts, what are your thoughts.