This week I stumbled into an area that myself and others routinely do. Posting pictures online from Pack events. I try to post only photos with my family in them. However, within Scouting there is an added air of respondsibility. As Scouts are all are keenly aware of Youth Protection, Guide to Safe Scouting and the many other publications about keeping the Cub Scouts and Scouts safe.
Because I live in the Portland, Oregon I am very aware of last summer’s trial against the Boy Scouts and it’s ramifications. The Boy Scouts of America have as a result stepped up many of their requirements as part of their membership rules. These are no brainers and should have been there all along. Because of this, our Pack last summer/fall worked on re-doing a lot of literature updating it. It was about five years out of date. During this process we added several photos of the boys to help illustrate “FUN” within the Pack. We did ask permission of the parents at that time.
This issue came up again because I am working on a slide show via iPhoto for our Crossover/Blue & Gold events. I posted it to Youtube via a private access link that only allowed those who had it to see it. Everyone loved it. I had only sent it to the Committee & Den Leaders. A concern was raised about online photos and child protection.
While it does not matter who raised it, it was raised. I fully understood why. Not as a Cubmaster, but as a Parent I understood. I should also mention that my wife was in the Child Abuse Team for the District Attorney’s Office for several years. So, I get the reasons why. I took every photo and video down off this blog, my Youtube account and both Facebook accounts. (Yes, I have two).
Thus begun my quest for information about what the Boy Scouts of America has for policy guidelines. Via Twitter, I found that a few others did too. So far, I cannot find anything via the BSA has on this subject. I checked the Guide to Safe Scouting and the website. These publications and websites do not contain any guidelines on what to do.
What I did find through a posting on ptcmedia.net, was COPPA. I also found a non-Scouting related New York Times article about it as well. The New York Times article is very interesting. I have seen articles with a similar outcomes. Posting photos and having people steal them to create their own online family is horrible. The COPPA information is generally for companies that have stores or reasons online to collect information. This link/document is a great resource in helping normal/non-business to create guidelines for posting.
The conclusion that I have reached thus far is this when posting photos of children, your own or otherwise.
1)Do not name your kids in the picture. Tagging them with names is not good. Even if using A.Cox or Robert B.P. It identifies them. Identification can help people find them.
2)Full faced photos should not be used. Use wide angle or off to the side shots. This will help disguise your child.
3)Photos shot from behind. These photos still give all the action of the event, but does not compromise the children.
4)Nude shots or shots of them covering privates should never be posted. (I have seen people post photos of their kids on Facebook and elsewhere like this). These photos can get the best parent in deep hot water.
5) Get permission from the parents. If you want to share the photos with someone over Facebook, email it to them. Better yet, print them off and mail them. Sharing over Facebook is great. However, not everyone wants to have their photo “Tagged” on Facebook.
6) If your Unit does post pictures online, find a secure process that allows only those who the parents want to have access to them. If a parent does not want photos posted of their child, do not post them. If photos are used for newsletters or non-digital media, then it could be a different story.
Because I am the Cubmaster and write a blog, I work to be very mindful to the wishes of the parents. I generally do not post pictures of Scouts or Family photos to Facebook. If I do, my account and photos are heavily locked down and controlled.
In the end, even if your not involed in Scouting, it’s still your duty to safeguard children. DO YOUR BEST.
(Updated March 11th, 2011: From a twitter post from @Scoutsigns there is a link to BSA that talks about Websites & Social Media. Interesting read.)