Share Your Advice on Using Student Photos on Blogs

Image of using student photosPepper Dellinger asked a really good question “Is it safe to add pictures of students doing class activities to your blog?”.

Since educators have differing views on the use of student images I thought it would be an excellent opportunity for us to discuss the issues while sharing tips and links to resources.

So can you please share with us:

  1. Does your school or district have guidelines or policies relating to the use of student images on the Internet? If so, what procedures are you required to follow?
  2. Your advice or thoughts on using student images on the Internet?
  3. How do you educate your students on what images they are/aren’t allowed to use?

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27 thoughts on “Share Your Advice on Using Student Photos on Blogs

  1. i am a student of sanford and i think blogging can help us learn.maybe buy helping eachother in school.well bye 😀

  2. I am trying to have students add to the class blog as a contributor and make posts about our class topics. How do I allow them capabilty to add media, such as images and video links…which of course I will approve as I review?
    Thank you.

    1. @rjr52, At the moment contributors can’t upload media – that is a default setting in this version of WordPress MU that we use. However I sent our development team a list of recommended changes that I believe most people would like to see happen.

      Ability to upload media as a contributor is one of the changes. They quickly developed a solution to allow contributors to upload media. And hopefully it should be installed on Edublogs very soon.

  3. I’ve just finsihed my prac, but while I was doing it I wanted to share with my friends what I was doing in my classroom. The best way to do this is of course, photos!

    I put some on facebook, and then on my blog, but they were just of the classroom, and sometimes of kids- if it was of the back of their heads- no faces.

    I was a bit disapointed, because I got some really cool shots of the kids doing things that would’ve been great to share with others, but felt like I couldn’t put them on the internet because I might get in trouble.

    The other thing I was aware of is kids in situations like foster care, where they may have had an abusive parent, or even just a child living with one parent, and they’ve ‘escaped’ from the other violent parent or partner. I wouldn’t want their safety put jeopardy because that person stumbled on my blog, or some random saw it and recognised the kid or anything like that.

    I just made sure that I took shots of kids without their faces so that I could show them doing work as well.

    In hindsight, I could have just asked the parents… but seeing as this was just a person thing, and only for a few weeks, I didn’t deem it necessary. I could live with not updating my facebook photos!!

  4. @Justin Thanks for sharing how it is managed in your school. Unfortunately the media portrays the negative aspects of the Internet which is why we need to ensure we communicate effectively with the parents so they become comfortable with the process.

    @Lesley Sorry about that — I also had trouble reading. It was GlassGiant.com. Just one of the many image generators I use for creating images for blog posts and presentations.

  5. In our school district, we are in the process of formalizing policies on issues such as this. In general, though, our rule tends to be: Show the pictures, and if you’re showing the same students repeatedly, get waivers; if you’re providing student name associations with the pictures, you should have a parental waiver. Waivers are a must. I tell the teachers to work with their administrators before posting class photos on their blogs.

    On a side note, sometimes I wonder if we’re overreacting. Actually, not so much overreacting, but just not communicating with parents well enough to know what THEY consider acceptable displays of their children. After all, these are their kids. The state laws and school policies governing how we handle child safety in our schools is supposed to suit their needs. The majority of parents are excited to see their children on the web. It gives them a closer feeling to the classroom, to see them engaged in activities, learning, having fun. Some teachers in our district further close this gap between the classroom and parents with videos, podcasts, and more. It’s so important to make sure parents are involved.

  6. I worry and struggle with this too. So because of that, I just don’t do it at all. No pictures. I don’t even want other adults to know who I am, much less my students. I just find ways around subjecting children to exposure. Use the item they have produced, use their voice, I even heard of one teacher using paper plate masks which I thought was cute! I also heard another teacher only does the backs of their head, that the parent knows who they are, but most others that don’t know the child won’t.

  7. @Tiana Agreed another option is to use a password protected site.

    @wmchamberlain It’s great how these technologies do empower the students to realise they are connecting with a much greater audience than was achievable previously.

    @murcha The family members who live overseas must really enjoy being able to check out the students work. I definitely agree that this provides us the best opportunities for educating the students on the issues.

  8. In our school, parents are asked to fill in an AUP for online publishing and internet usage. These forms are checke to ensure their are not custody issues.
    I find students love having photos online. However, we try to upload students as part of a group rather than individuals. There are times, though, where students are so proud of their achievements, that they wish to record this visually.
    Students and staff are asked not to identify the names of students in the photos and so far after 12 months of blogging there have been no issues. We have grandparents from overseas who regularly visit their grandchildren’s blogs and this is a fantastic way of keeping them up to date and connected.
    Here is the chance to teach students appropriate use of photos and images before they become too embroiled in social networking sites and inappropriate media.

  9. I use pictures, video, student work, and I stream live from my class. My students know that what they produce will be viewed by people other than me and their parents. It makes them think more about the quality of their work. It makes them understand the world is at their fingertips, especially when they have a comment posted on their blogs by teachers from places like Australia.

    I want my students to feel apart of a community that encompasses the world, not the city limits of my small town. Are there any statistics to show that students pictures on the internet make them more likely to have a crime committed against them than students without pictures online? Thomas Hobbes wrote that “superstition was fear without reason.” Isn’t it about time we get past the superstition of the internet bogeyman?

  10. Our district just updated the policy on posting student photos/classroom photos and I believe a waiver needs to be signed before pictures are allowed onto websites (I haven’t read it yet 🙁 ).

    Another option is to create ‘pages’ that are password protected and only give the password to parents/students in your class so that only they can view pictures. When I change the password I send out a bulk email.

  11. @SpoonZ With your school contract does the contract specify use on school website or does it cover all Internet sites? I think most would be happy to see their kids photos on a website.

    @Kerry J For some reasons people place a distinction between traditional media sources and the Internet. And yet it is often the traditional medias coverage of the negative aspects that has installed these concerns. I totally agree lets teach them smart ways of being visible.

    @Moodleman It’s sad that we “live in a society now where we are constantly afraid of litigation”. Getting teachers, students and your Principal involved is important so they can understand the value of what you are doing.

    @angelac1 You raise really good points about “why have student pictures in the first place”. I know that I now think a lot more about reasons for/against using photos even with my own family.

    @Miss W. I think the process you have set up for your students is a really good way of ensuring everyone is comfortable with any photos used. Thanks for sharing.

    @Ines Unfortunately most countries don’t have guidelines and policies to address these issues. RE- Kerry J’s comment – But part of the argument relating to Internet use is cyberstalking and being able to locate where people live. As Kerry points out that is much easier to do using newspaper. Also how come it is okay for a school website to have student photos that identify the school but not a classroom website?

    @Gail P Thanks for sharing information on your school policy and how you personally handle the use of your own student images. As you point out when used well student photos can add so much to the work you do with your students.

    @Mrs Gordon It is good that your school district has put in place mechanism to help teachers with this process. Is there a copy of the AUP your parents have to sign available online for others to check out?

    @Jeremy So with student photos you aren’t allowed to include their first name under the image? Do you also get parents to sign permission?

    @Ken Agreed that litigation is often the greater concern. I think the form needs use on the Internet not just the school website. Good point about students posting on Bebo which is even more reason for us to be modeling the appropriate use of images to educate them on these issues.

  12. Kia ora Sue!

    A relevant topic! I’m currently drafting a Cybercitizenry Policy for TCS. This was one of the issues I’d earmarked as a topic to cover in our policy.

    I’m with Moodleman. I also agree that one can get one’s long-johns in a real twist about this and lose sight of what we’re about. Getting parents and students involved can save misunderstanding and threat of litigation, which seems to be the thing that scares most schools, more so than any perceived danger to the students.

    Ensuring student/parent awareness is more important and useful than rampant prohibition. It is really the responsibility of the school to give access to that awareness to all who are involved with the school.

    If there is any doubt, one simple way the school can cover itself (even if it’s already covered in existing school policy) is to state simply on any consent form for student activities that pictures of students may be posted on the school’s web-site. A tick box takes care of any dissent. It also gives autonomy to the parents and students and protects the school.

    My daughter frequently posts on Bebo photos of her mates that were taken on school outings (and some holiday outings) and they likewise of her, on their Bebo pages. These things are happening all the time. If the school comes down hard on Internet posting of photos of students by the school, it would most likely happen anyway by the students. Best to be sensible and include disclaimers where appropriate, giving freedom to teachers and students.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

  13. Hello folks,
    At my school we have the following policy:

    Students will be identified by their first names only.
    Student pictures posted online will NOT have students names connected to it.

    This policy isn’t written anywhere (that I can find) but is agreed upon by our staff (we are a small school in a small town, we can get away with it).

  14. Being able to share student work with extended families and with the community is too good an opportunity to miss! In my district, all families are required to sign an AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) which governs internet access and use, as well as whether the child can have photos, work, audio, or video posted online. This saves the trouble of having to ask for permission every time a teacher wants to use a photo or a podcast.

    A very small number of parents opt not to have their kids’ images & work online. Sometimes it may be an unwarranted fear of the big scary internet. But don’t forget that not everybody in the US has a computer in the home–about 25% of households don’t–so their impressions of the net come from the press–and the press does love reporting on all the scary stuff on the web! Sometimes they have good reason: custody issues, for example, as Gail P. pointed out. In my preK -3 building, when student photos, voice, or video is posted online, we use only first names. I think that’s a sensible compromise between privacy and transparency for young students.

    It’s not just school districts that have policies governing image use. When I sign my daughter up for Girl Scouts, I have to check the little box that says they can use photos of my kid in their promotional literature.

  15. This is still an important issue for debate in the school community.
    Our school policy allows images and even student identification with parental consent. We have a separate permisssion form dealing with pictures and if a newspaper comes in and photographs a student, the parent is contacted to be sure they are okay with the identification by name before it runs in the paper or on television.
    As a kindergarten teacher with a blog meant for home school communication, I pay close attention to having documented parental permission for the photos. For the upcoming year, I am still missing a few permissions; no one has said no but some have not returned the paperwork.
    In my blog, I make every effort to avoid using names. I blur them out if they are written on a child (nametag). In the past I have blurred the face of child in a compostite shot when it is important to the story I am telling and want to include it. I have also done this for handed out newsletters to homes. I have erred a couple of times as I am also using videos and if they involve academic work, I may inadvertently use a child’s name when talking with them in the video. Just more practice with the medium should fix that.
    It’s been a couple of years since a parent has denied permission to release photos and these usually involve hiding kids from non-custodial parents.
    All in all, the response to student photo use has been tremendous. It shows the students interacting together; it provides a starting point for student-parent communication about schoolwork and classmates; it engages everyone in the technology; it show parents that using pictures properly can be a safe and positive experience; it shows extended family members around the country what is happening in their little friend’s classroom and it makes them more connected somehow.
    Gail P

  16. Hi Sue,
    I n my school we are allowed to post students photos on our school site, but we are asked not to choose photos where they are plainly recognizable; instead, students must be shown at a certain distance.

    As I had noticed that the gyms department showed students very close, playing all sorts of sports, I asked the teacher about it and she explained to me that students were glad she did that and, so far, no parent had complained.

    On our Moodle platform, on the contrary, as it is a private site, with no visitors allowed, we can publish students photos and they can do it themselves.

    Besides, I notice that, as a country where “on line school” is just beginning, we have not clearly set up laws about these issues yet, and that we probably must follow other countries examples quickly, instead of letting these questions turn into a “no-man’s-land”, which would be dangerous.

    I loved to read Kerry J. comment, but I must admit that Internet can’t just be compared with TV and other traditional media, because the former allows interaction, and thus there is a potential increase of risk while exposing children.

    As for not identifying the school, I must be specially careful in publishing any photo of my students, because our blogs are all linked to our school site, and this is expected to be so by the school it self.
    Ines

  17. Living in the same state as angelac1, she has explained our guidelines well. Even though parents have filled in forms at the beginning of the year, I have explained to my students there are some steps they have to take. If they wish to use in their blog one of our class photos showing students working or displaying their work and students faces are recognizable then:

    Firstly, each child in the photo must give permission for the photo to be used.

    Secondly, a copy of the photo is to be sent home to each parent for their permission and mentioning where the photo will be used.

    Thirdly, all parents need to sign the permission form for that photo. If only one of the parents refuse, then that photo can’t be used.

    I feel this is making the students a bit more responsible in choosing their photos and images. Also no names are used with the photo nor is the school name mentioned.

    So far, students have only shown work completed and contained no faces, but in third term we will be taking more digital photos so perhaps they will want to include more photos of students.

  18. Here there are guidelines that limit the number of identifiers (such as name, location, school etc) that can be used. There is also the requirement that parents/guardians sign a permission form (usually at the beginning of each school year) to allow publishing of photos or work samples.

    The question of why have student pictures in the first place is trickier for me – is the student image critical for the piece, or is it merely decoration? The purpose really provides the answer here.

    Is there really a difference between the images put up on a website, and the images smiling from the morning paper? The processes and attitudes say yes, and newspaper articles usually give full name, school, class and location. If a website did the same there would be major questions asked.

    With student images, again I think that the purpose is the important determinator of what could or should be used. However elements for students to consider are the inclusion of other students in the image, any copyright requirements and if the image is appropriate for an open audience.

  19. I am in agreement with Spoonz. We live in a society now where we are constantly afraid of litigation. For this reason primarily many schools/districts are creating policies that prevent online activities as a “just in case measure”. If we forever aim at this lowest common denominator however we find our options extremely limiting.

    Get your parents involved. Ask them if they are Ok with online activities. Explain how you are keeping it safe and controlled and I am willing to bet you will have a near 100% acceptance rate. This great post from Steve Collis (http://tinyurl.com/5hdp8m) shows how this process can be used very effectively.

    We are right to be cautious, but don’t always assume the worst. Involve the parents and students, keep them informed and make sure you know they are safe and I think you will be amazed at the possibilities.

  20. I was going to write a blog post about this, but will comment here instead.

    If the argument against student photos on the internet concerns any risk of stalkers/predators, etc. — then the people putting forth those concerns need to get up, go outside, and look in their driveway.

    See it? There’s your weekly free local newspaper. Unroll it from its plastic wrapper and look at it instead of saving it for the bird cage or cat tray.

    On the front page a few weeks ago in our local was a photo of a special needs child and his family and a story about him. Anyone reading it now knows this child’s first and last names and those of his mum, brother and baby sister. They know the organisation that is helping his family. They know where he goes to school and what suburb he lives in.

    In previous weeks, one can see loads of photos of children – their names, favourite sports, favourite foods, suburbs and schools.

    So — if we are to protect children by not posting their images and work on the internet — surely the local papers should be stopped from doing so as well.

    And if they are stopped from doing so, surely broadcast television should not show images of children.

    And did you want to take a happy snap of a city street, beach, amusement park, shopping centre? Make sure you blur out ALL shots of children! Even your own — unless you’re such a bad parent you don’t care!

    Where does it stop? Are children to be invisible for their own good until the age of 18?

    In an time where kids are getting online from the age of 4 and are in chat rooms at age 8 and have the ability to set up their own web sites or upload their own videos with a few mouse clicks (or a mobile phone), invisibility isn’t an option.

    This is the most photographed, videoed, connected generation of people ever. They are media creators, not just consumers. They will have unprecedented opportunities to collaborate online. Let’s teach them the smart ways to be visible.

  21. I think common sense rules here. As the webmaster and photographer at a school. All students’ parents are aware in their school contract that their daughters image may be used for advertising purposes etc. They then have the choice to opt out of this and insist that no images can be used – and their wishes are obviously respected.
    When a photo is used it is usually “annonomised” so a student name is never attributed to a photograph – this even applies to newsletters and most publicity documents too.

    If a student or parent objects to a photo that is used and posted to a newsletter or website then it’s polite and respectful to take the photo down immediately.

    I find that most students and parents think that it’s fantastic to see themselves online – I’ve never had a photo on our splash screen complained about, but have had lots of praise and comments such as ” that’s a great photo of my kid on your website, can I have a copy?”

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