Teachers Taking Photos of Children for Social Media

The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child sets universal standards for how we need to see children’s rights. In Africa there is an African Charter which also deals with this issue.  The South African Constitution was then written which enshrined the indelible rights of children in South Africa. These are outlined in Article 28 of the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution.

The fundamental principle is that adults always act in the best interests of children. To achieve this, all adults in South Africa have a negative duty towards the protection of children, to do no harm to them. However, the law needed to compel adults to exercise a positive duty towards children which meant legislation was written that made it mandatory for adults to seek assistance for abused children.

Professionals who are employed to interact with children on a daily basis need to be aware of the laws in place to protect children’s rights to safety, security, care, privacy, dignity and confidentiality, respect etc. A teacher, for example, has full responsibility when it comes to the safety and care of students on a school premises. Teachers can unintentionally reveal information such as identifying the whereabouts or identity of the child, for example if a teacher takes a picture of any school or classroom activities and makes the picture available to the public or posts them on any social media platforms.

It is important that a teacher asks themselves three questions before posting such contents:

  • <!--[endif]-->Is there anything personally identifiable in this post? What could the possible repercussions of sharing this information be?
  • Do I have explicit permission to post it? Children below 12 cannot give consent.
  • Is what I’m posting furthering the student’s learning? What is my motive for sharing this information?

Every school has certain policies in place to protect the children of that school, for example specific consent forms for School Photographs. Schools usually arrange for a photographer to take individual, class or teaching photographs that are later sold to parents/guardians. Beforehand, the school must give parents written notice, obtain consent from parents and inform parents about the storage of these photographs and the proposed other uses of the images. For example, their inclusion on the school website or school magazine. Parents/guardians can provide informed consent or withhold consent for the collection, issue and disclosure of their child photographs at any time by contacting the school.

Unfortunately social media has allowed easier access to children by predators.  Children have a right to dignity, privacy and confidentiality of personal information.  There may be a stigma attached to their attendance at a particular school, for example special needs or remedial schools or correctional facilities and rehabilitation programs. This cannot be made public knowledge.

It therefore is quite obvious how easily a teacher can cross this boundary unintentionally. Social Media has increasingly become a platform for predators and cyber bullying thus making it extremely important for a Professional working with children to be conscious of such when posting contents regarding the identity and location of the child/children.

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