Little star of Instagram leaves parents divided
It's that time of year when proud parents are getting ready to watch their little ones make their stage debut in the school play.
Whether they are starring as Mary or Joseph in a nativity or singing their heart in a festive musical, it's one of those childhood milestones to be cherished forever.
But the sight of a school hall full of hundreds of mums and dads jostling for the best spot and snapping away on their cameras or phones is becoming less common.
Now an increasing number of schools are banning parents and grandparents from taking their own pictures for fear of falling foul of privacy laws in this social media age.
They want to ensure everyone's wishes are respected as not all parents may feel comfortable with the idea of a fellow mum or dad or a stranger posting a photo or video that shows their child.
Some have introduced a complete ban on photography during productions or other school events while others allow photos to be snapped, recognising it's an important moment in a child's life - but they do ask parents agree to certain conditions such as not sharing them online.
Schools can make their own mind up on how best to approach the tricky issue and one that has taken the step to ban the use of smartphones and other devices to take photos during plays is Mayfield Preparatory School in Walsall.
Headteacher Matthew Draper said the decision followed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data privacy laws, which came into force last year.
But he says it's been far from controversial as parents have been happy to abide by the rules
"We have written consent from parents for displaying photos on our website and on social media.
"Since GDPR we have also banned parents from taking photos and videos on their devices during nativity plays or other kinds of productions at school, so that images of other children are not captured on their devices.
"The parents have been very good about it. They like to have photos of their children because they're nice souvenirs to have, so we display photos from events and productions on our website and social media platforms for those children where we have written consent from their parents.
"We create DVDs of our nativities and plays and we make sure we have written consent from parents.
"If we didn't get consent from a particular parent, we would have to edit it to remove their child, but fortunately we have not had to do that up to now," he added.
But David Tinker, headteacher at Brockton C of E Primary School in Much Wenlock, says he doesn't feel there is a need for a ban and believes this special moment in a child's life should be recorded.
"This is a key moment in a child's life journey. We allow parents to take photos because a child is only five once. We just ask them to focus as much as possible on their own child and not to put them on social media.
"I try to be as pragmatic as possible and consider the feelings of parents and those parents who want to see the play but can't get the time off work.
"It's all done with mutual consent. I will ask at the start if there are any objections and so far there never has been," he added.
Andrew Clewer, headteacher at Landywood Primary School in Great Wyrley, also takes a similar approach at productions and always ensures that parents know their child is likely to be photographed.
"Our policy is that we allow parents to take photos but they must be for personal use and cannot be uploaded onto social media. We always get consent from parents for pupils to be in the play."
Schools are perfectly entitled by law to restrict the use of photography or video equipment on the premises and anyone caught flouting the rules could be asked to leave.
If parents are unsure whether they can share their photos, which also feature other children, on the likes of Facebook or Instagram then Anthony Di Palma, a solicitor at DAS Law, says it is advisable to get prior consent from a parent or guardian.
He says one option might be to blur out their faces to help hide their identity before uploading them to social media.
"You don’t have to blur out children’s faces in order to share them online, as the Data Protection Act doesn’t apply to photographs taken for private use and which do not identify the child by naming them.
"However, if you would be concerned about images of your own child appearing without your permission, blurring out other children’s faces may be a sensible step to take," he explained.
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