Supporting parents who want to film, photograph or stream school events

Why not show this to parents before you start this year’s Nativity play at school? Food for thought…

It’s that time of year again where parents will be filing into the school hall for a Nativity play or other Christmas extravaganza, devices at the ready (if you are reading this at another time of year, the same applies to sports days, trips, plays and other school gatherings on school site and beyond).

But is your school ready? Have you made it clear to parents what your rules are to keep children safe, conform to data protection rules, and ensure everyone can enjoy the experience without having to peer around a tablet the size of a bucket? And have you considered that someone who you think might be filming the event could actually be livestreaming it? The mind boggles, but in a world where seemingly everyone videos and shares everything, it happens.

So here is a sample letter you can edit and share with parents (remember to make it fit your policies). You might want to take a more informal approach and share the above video – but be sure to add a couple of lines to make clear what your rules are, what you expect and why it is important to respect the rules.

As the letter explains in more detail for parents, there are very important reasons for restrictions which parents need to understand – or else they will think we are killjoys or just luddites who don’t understand the selfie generation. Namely:

  • Child protection – looked-after children often have restrictions for their own protection that hopefully very few parents and staff will know about; others may not be officially flagged but have family backgrounds which mean that sharing images in an identifiable context could put them in danger.
  • GDPR (the new General Data Protection Regulation) and the new Data Protection Bill. Sharing could otherwise potentially incur fines for contravention of data protection rules. Photos are personal data, after all (NB they become ‘special category data’ only when used with biometrics).
  • Some families may object for religious or cultural reasons, or simply for reasons of personal privacy – we must respect this.
  • Sharing images of children in school uniform helps identify them so should not be done unless avoidable.
  • We encourage young people to think about their online reputation and digital footprint, so we should be good adult role models by not oversharing (or providing embarrassment in later life – and it is not for us to judge what is embarrassing or not).

You might take one of the approaches described in the letter, insisting on personal use only, or providing staged opportunities at the end; you may decide to ban all recording devices and be done with; you may ban recording but hire a professional to record the event or a dress rehearsal to share with parents later (costs money but better quality and less disruption). If you do the latter though, just make sure you aren’t the ones falling foul of the rules – are parental permissions for school photography up to date?

Whatever you do, make sure everyone knows the rules, and remind them that apart from anything else, school events and activities are a lot more enjoyable for all concerned without a sea of phones and tablets; memories are a lot more likely to stick than a grainy image is to be regularly viewed. As it says at the end of the letter, “Remember, your child wants to see you looking at them, not at your phone”.

 

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