In Children, Photo sharing, Privacy

Did you know…

  • 70 per cent of school marketers in Australia are using Facebook as their major social media platform, yet Instagram is rapidly surpassing that position
  • 72 per cent of Australian schools have reported managing at least one incident of online bullying in the previous year
  • 50+ per cent increase in child-image abuse content in just a year
  • 90 per cent of the 18 million pieces of content of child image abuse reported in 2018 came from Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger

Did you also know that Instagram has surpassed Facebook in popularity for cyberbullying and was becoming the leading platform for child grooming in that country, with a 200% spike over last 18 months with primary age group targeted being 12-15 years (but also victims as young as 5)?

And what is the main weapon of choice? Images and videos.

Today a child’s image must be the most identifiable piece of information easily available, so why aren’t we protecting these images better?

Marketing responsibly

About 2 years ago I moved into the Education space after 20+ years in professional management consulting, with 10 of those years focused on sales and marketing strategy.

When I started to meet schools, I was surprised at how much they relied on social media for school marketing and promotion. As someone experienced in marketing (and parent of a school-age child), something was not adding up for me when schools were so heavily using social media channels but also had a legal duty of care to protect children.

Schools use social media to quickly expand their reach and network, but often don’t consider the longer-term effects of such actions on the people featured in images published. Things like the age, mental, physical and behavioural health of that child must be taken into consideration when assessing whether to publish images featuring that child in social media. Also:

  • Has the appropriate level of consent been collected and recorded prior to publishing?
  • Does the marketing team have appropriate guidance readily at hand on social media use, and are they across the school’s policies and procedures (such as those relating to privacy, consent, information security and harm prevention) when it comes to social media publishing?
  • Has reasonable care been taken to not cause “foreseeable” harm before they click that share button?

I am not saying that schools should stop using social media channels, as everything has its place and purpose. It is important, however, to use these channels more wisely and responsibly. Make sure your school has the right level of insight to ensure any risks of harm are low for all your students. Children are vulnerable and easy targets to exploit. I’ve heard too many stories of schools publishing photos from their latest swimming carnival straight to Facebook and Instagram with little consideration or filtering of images. Facebook is known to be a primary source of content for paedophiles and now Instagram has caught up!

Also, when you share content with social media companies, do you realise you are giving away both your content and any faces attached to these companies for them to keep and leverage forever??

I’ve also heard of late that schools and other “child-safe” organisations believe they are protecting their content by using private groups on Facebook – no! Please be aware that you are still giving away any content published to Facebook (even in that limited-access environment) TO FACEBOOK itself, including faces, and there are always ways around gaining access. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

When using images of children in school marketing

Before publishing that next happy snap of a child on social media, please ask yourself the important questions:

A) Is it necessary or appropriate to publish in this channel?

B) Is it being portrayed in the best light or could it put a child at risk or harm?

C) Is there another image which better communicates the “story” without giving away the child’s identity?

D) Does the imagery chosen reflect your school’s brand, values and communication strategy?

E) Have you collected the appropriate level of consent and is it recorded? (very important these days)

F) Does sharing the image deliver any real value to your target audience?

G) Could the image be shared in a safer way than using a public open social media platform?

And so on…

From a marketer’s perspective, every touchpoint with a customer should build a consistent story across all channels with relevant and authentic conversations that are valuable, effective and build reputation, not risk.

What harm can really be done?

The child harm statistics mentioned above, combined with how schools have a duty of care, compelled me to write this blog – my first blog on LinkedIn – to help remind schools (and also parents) not to blindly use social media channels for marketing without a responsible strategy in place.

4 steps towards marketing responsibly when using images:

  1. Appreciate that online actions are permanent and almost impossible to reverse. The internet never forgets. Any publishing activity can come back to haunt.
  2. Assess how much information to share with others. When you share personal information (including photos) online, ensure it’s in the right channel that emulates your school’s privacy policy and promise. Keep customer ownership tight so that you maintain that primary relationship from Day 1. As a marketer, consider the potential risks before sharing anything with other companies.
  3. Do your research before selecting a channel. Before making your final choice, make sure you’ve read their Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy (and I am not talking about their website privacy statement – which often tells you very little – but the company’s proper Privacy Policy on how they will manage your data).
  4. Train your team to look for risks. Staff need training on what content is appropriate to share on social media, how to monitor the channel and how to respond to complaints. Find tools that help to manage this, such as a platform that enables you to publish images using encrypted links which can be deleted when there is a request for removal.

Keep top of mind that social media channels provide a uniquely powerful set of tools for sexual grooming and for kids to be cruel to one another, and gives instant open access to a global public audience. The velocity and size of this publishing and distribution mechanism allows for exploitation and harassment, especially when images go viral.

Recently, associations like the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in the UK have recommended businesses start to “carefully consider” whether they should continue to advertise on social media sites due to their failure to remove harmful material.

Managing risk should be everyone’s responsibility, but especially when working at a school whose legal obligation is to deliver a duty of care to its families. As a mum, I believe this particular issue needs immediate attention and must be continually assessed by schools at large to help parents protect the digital footprint of their children. Would you agree?

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