Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Child Safety Concerns

     Every school year the Department of Education (DOE) and/or our kids' schools send home media release/Student Publication forms with our kids for us to sign saying, in essence, the schools may or may not use photo/video images of them, their names and/or other identifying information (school, age, grade, club, etc.) and print, publish, or post on the Internet any such material at anytime they choose.
     One of the forms states that we may opt out by submitting a signed letter but warns that grievous consequences may result from blanket block-outs such as exclusion from year book photos and awards or graduation rolls. School administrative staff have informed us, too, that participation in certain club/class/school events, and the like, that are blanket video recorded may be jeopardized.
     When our kids were younger, I wrote opt out letters every year, mostly out of concern over Internet postings. Who knows what psychopath, able to easily track down our kids could or might do?—the Internet is open to all, reasonable and unreasonable, stable and unstable.
    In the letters I listed what usages were acceptable (year book photos, awards lists, printed newsletters, and the like) and those that weren't (posting photos, videos, or personal identifying information on the Internet).
     The DOE should do all parents a favor by creating an opt-out check list form of all potential media usages such as:

  □ Internet posting of photos
  □ Internet posting of videos
  □ Internet posting of personal identifying information

etc., that parents could use to check off all unacceptable usages.
     I shared this idea with Deanne, saying this will never happen because the DOE/schools do not want any parents to opt out because it creates more work for them to track kids that can and can't be included in this or that. And it exposes them to liability should a child's image or name appear somewhere that it wasn't supposed to. So rather than do the right thing and provide parents with such an easy-to-use, sensible tool, they place the burden on “troublesome”, “paranoid”, or “demanding” parents to create their own tailor-made opt out letters, knowing most parents won't bother. And they wrote one of these forms in such a manner as to scare parents into feeling like slime for opting out and causing their kids to stick out like pariahs to classmates, staff, and classmates' parents.
     Fortunately, this hasn't happened to our kids mainly due to sympathetic teachers (most or all of whom had kids of their own). During May Day, they strategically placed our kids somewhere in back where they wouldn't likely appear on the official video, enabling them to participate with all their classmates. And they were included in newsletters sent home that listed high achievers, perfect attendees, etc.
     So the system worked, but made it unnecessarily difficult for parents. (I doubt whether all schools would be equally accommodating by strategic placements, etc. I can image some saying, “You can't participate because you might appear in the school's video.”)
     The DOE should do the right think by making it far easier for parents to selectively opt out use of their kids' images or information without deploying scare tactics or making them out to be pariahs or pains or anything negative. It was a good law that gave power to parents to control this vital material concerning their children. It should thus be implemented with nonjudgmental good will by the DOE and schools, too.

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