ARE SCHOOL PICS SAFE ON FACEBOOK?
EVERY PARENT, OR INDEED ANYONE WHO HAS RECENTLY BINGE-WATCHED ‘OUR NICOLE’S’ EMMY AWARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE IN BIG LITTLE LIES, WILL BE FAMILIAR WITH THE EMOTIONALLY-CHARGED CHALLENGE OF KEEPING OUR KIDS SAFE IN SCHOOL.
The proliferation of social media and the rise of cyber-bullying has put students at greater risk. Image-based abuse – when intimate, nude or sexual images and videos that are real, altered or drawn are distributed without the consent of those pictured – is of particular concern.
WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?
THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT SAY:
- 1 in 5 Australians have experienced this type of abuse
- 11% of Australians under the age of 18 having had someone else post a nude or sexual photo/video of them online without their consent
- The majority of these being posted on Facebook
Thankfully, steps are being made to address the problem. The eSafety Commissioner’s Office just launched a pilot portal to support Australians with image-based abuse, as well as partnered with Facebook. These are terrific initiatives, but with less than 40 percent of abuse content able to be taken down from the internet, prevention is critical.
WHAT IS FACEBOOK DOING ABOUT IT?
Facebook has just announced it will donate 1 million pounds to establish a young “digital safety ambassadors” program. This program will be rolled out at every secondary school in the UK. This is a good start, but interestingly the donation was announced soon after the UK government released an internet safety green paper requesting internet companies (such as Google and Facebook) to pay for measures to combat and raise awareness about online bullying and other web dangers.
Facebook also just recently acquired a few-weeks-old standalone app for “less than US$100 million” to help teens be nicer to one another (and, I guess, if I had a cynics hat on, to also help it capture more of the lucrative teenage market) in an attempt to demonstrate it is building a safer environment for kids online.
THAT IS, FOR THE KIDS WHO ARE LEGALLY OVER 13 USING SOCIAL MEDIA, RIGHT?
Let’s face it, there’s no tangible way to completely eradicate image-base abuse from a society that has adopted the digital world and smartphones, but we can try and prevent this from getting worse and better protect our kids.
WHAT SHOULD SCHOOLS DO ABOUT ALL THIS?
I’ve not been able to locate any research on social media usage in Australian schools – please let me know if you’ve seen anything – but I did find a recent US Colorado University report mention that Facebook has become the “social media platform of choice for schools” in the US. From my observations at this point, I do believe this might be the case in Australia as well – but please prove me wrong.
WHY DO AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS USE FACEBOOK?
Firstly, I believe they have no real safer alternative right now, but also probably because the data shows Australian’s engage with Facebook more regularly than the citizens of any other country on earth. It is popular.
Andrew Lewis’ 2010 comment on community weblog, Metafilter, has become somewhat of a modern proverb:
if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.
And there’s the rub. Schools, when using Facebook or any other social media, need to set clear goals and know exactly what they are trying to achieve when engaging students, their families and the community in that manner.
- WHAT DO THEY NEED TO COMMUNICATE?
- ABOUT WHAT OR WHOM?
- FOR WHAT PURPOSE? FOR HOW LONG?
SCHOOLS ARE BEING CHALLENGED TO BALANCE “DUTY OF CARE” OWED TO THEIR STUDENTS, WITH THE GROWING DEMANDS TO INTERACT WITH PARENTS AND MARKET TO THE PUBLIC.
Without first establishing clear parameters around what can (or should) be shared via social media, schools are
1)Potentially using social media ineffectively as a communications and marketing tool and
2)At increased risk of failing to protect student personal information in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).
WHAT ARE WE SAYING?
I’m certainly not saying Facebook has no place in schools, but its use requires a more measured, strategic approach. A decision to use Facebook, or other available social media channels, should be the responsibility of a senior manager who understands the benefits and implications of social media and is aware of the school’s corresponding obligations under Australian privacy law.
As you know, images and other information associated with them, are frequently shared by schools on social media. Using these channels exposes any company to “extraordinary unknowns” but this must be especially concerning when a company has obligations to protect children.
To do this well (and in addition to knowing their objectives for using social media in the first place) schools should use a privacy best practice approach or risk falling afoul of the APPs.
MY SUGGESTIONS FOR SCHOOLS
- Solicit and collect photos of students where it is reasonably necessary for one or more of the school’s functions or activities as an educational institution
- Clearly inform parents about how their student’s image will be used, which platforms the image will appear on, and how they can opt out of specific platforms.
- Seek informed consent from parents/legal guardians for the use and distribution of photographs and film generally (not just in relation to social media).
- Only disclose a photo for the particular purposefor which it was collected. Consent should be obtained otherwise.
Quite apart from the privacy rules which impose lawful obligations on Australian schools in relation to how they collect and handle images, there is an element of polite practice here.– in their day to day lives and online.
SCHOOLS SHOULD HELP STUDENTS ENGAGE IN DIGNIFIED AND RESPECTFUL INTERACTIONS KING PERMISSION AND HONOURING THE WISHES OF STUDENTS (AND THEIR PARENTS) IN RELATION TO HOW STUDENT IMAGES ARE MANAGED AND SHARED BY THE SCHOOL IS, SIMPLY PUT, THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
Are social media channels relied on too heavily by Australian schools due to a lack of an alternative?
I’d love to learn more about your concerns and your experiences with schools who have best-practice image management. You can also check out my other posts on LinkedIn.