Photography and sharing images guidance

Topics: Safeguarding and child protection

Guidance for photographing and filming

It’s important that children and young people feel happy with their achievements and have photographs and films of their special moments. Family and friends also want to be able to share the successes of their children when they have been part of a special event or activity.

However, some children, parents or carers may not be comfortable with images of themselves or their children being shared. For example:

  • if a child and/or their family have experienced abuse they may worry about the perpetrator tracing them online
  • children who choose not to have contact with some members of their family may decide to minimise their online presence
  • families may have religious or cultural reasons for choosing not to be photographed.

It’s important to be aware of child protection and safeguarding issues when taking photos of or filming children and young people. The potential for misuse of images can be reduced if organisations are aware of the potential dangers and put appropriate measures in place.

You should also consider the data protection implications of making, using and storing images of children and young people for your organisation’s use.

We’ve put together guidance to help you think about and mitigate the risks involved with making and sharing images of children.

> Find out more about child protection and safeguarding

Risks

Risks of sharing images online

Sharing photographs and images of children on social media or other online platforms carries potential risks. For example:

  • children may become vulnerable to grooming if a photograph is shared alongside information that makes them identifiable. This includes: personal details; a tag with location information; visual details such as a school uniform
  • inappropriate images of children may be shared online
  • images may be copied, downloaded, screenshotted or shared by anyone
  • images of children may be adapted and used inappropriately
  • photos or videos may appear in internet search results
  • depending on the terms and conditions of using an online platform, the image may be owned by the platform once it’s been posted. Platforms may then license images for use by third parties – such as for commercial purposes
  • each photo or video, and any comments on them, become a part of a child’s public image. This may affect them later in life – for example, it may affect how they see themselves, or how they are viewed when applying for a job

(Thinkuknow, 2018).

Before sharing images of children on social media, adults should consider how widely images may be shared, how long they may remain available and how this may affect the children’s long-term wellbeing.

Photography policy statement

Writing a photography policy statement

Schools, clubs and organisations should have a written photography policy statement that sets out your overall approach to images taken of children and young people during events and activities.

This policy statement should be used alongside a more detailed set of procedures that explain how your organisation uses images of children and young people in publications, on websites and on social networking sites, and what actions you take to keep children safe.

You should make sure children, parents, staff and volunteers understand the policy statement and know how photographs and films taken during your organisation’s events and activities can be shared more safely.

We’ve created an example photography and filming policy statement, which you should tailor according to the context of your organisation. This should be used alongside your overarching online safety and child protection policies and procedures.

> Download our example photography and filming policy statement (PDF)

> Find out more about developing an online safety policy

> Find out more about child protection and safeguarding

Sharing images

Guidance on sharing images

Seeking consent to share images of children and young people

When is consent needed?

Children should always be consulted about the use of their image and give consent to it being used and shared.

For young people under 16, you should also get parental consent to use an image.

In situations where under 16s are separated from their parents (for example if they are in care) you should seek consent from someone who holds parental responsibility (for example the child’s carer or the local authority).

For 16- to 17-year-olds, you should decide if it's appropriate to obtain parental consent, depending on the activity and the young person’s circumstances. If you decide you do not need parental consent, then consider whether you should still inform parents that the child’s photograph is being shared. In most circumstances, parents have a legal parental responsibility for their children up to the age of 18.

How to get consent

Make sure children, young people, their parents and carers understand what they are agreeing to.

  • Make them aware that a photo or video is being taken.
  • Explain what the image is going to be used for.
  • Ask for their consent to share their image and record this on a written consent form.
  • Tell them how long their consent is valid for and how long you will keep the image for.
  • Explain what you will do if a child or their parents change their mind and withdraw consent at a later stage.
  • Make it clear that if a child’s image has been used online or in printed publications it will be very difficult to recall it if consent is withdrawn.

Keep a record of the written consent that parents, carers and children have given for images being used.

It’s good practice to share your photography policy with children and parents and seek their consent at the beginning of the year. You may also need to get additional consent in specific circumstances (if for instance, you are bringing in a professional photographer or the photos might appear in the local or national media).

> Download our example photography and filming consent form (PDF)

Advising parents or carers about sharing images of children on social media

There is no law against taking photos at public events, including of other people’s children (Ask the Police, 2018).

But your photography policy statement should make it clear that parents or carers should gain permission before sharing photographs or videos of other people’s children on social media.

Consider asking parents not to share any pictures or videos of events and activities on social media, where other people’s children can be identified. Explain how sharing images in this way could place some children and families at risk.

Your photography and filming policy statement should include a section on how you will set out your expectations for parents, carers and family members who want to take photos and videos for personal use.

> Download our example photography and filming policy statement (PDF)

Advise parents or carers who want to share pictures or videos of their own children on social media to make sure they understand who else will be able to view images of their child.

Suggest that parents or carers use their privacy settings to make sure only their friends can see their profile and photos, and that geo-location settings are not shared. Before posting a picture, parents or carers can also make sure there isn’t anything that would allow a location or identity to be recognised, such as school logos or signs, road names, or names of clubs that their child attends.

Encourage parents to ask for children’s permission before posting a picture or video of them online. With very young children and babies, this will not be possible but parents and carers should consider the long-term implications of sharing an image before making it public.

You could run an information session for parents on online safety, which may include information about sharing images online.

> Find out more about preventing online abuse 

Storing images

Storing images securely

If your organisation stores images or video recordings of children for official use, you must ensure you are complying with the Data Protection Act 2018

You must take steps to mitigate the risk of unauthorised access to and inappropriate use of images of children. This might include:

  • storing images in a secure location
  • encrypting electronic images before they are stored 
  • only using devices belonging to your organisation to take and store photos and recordings of children
  • making sure anyone who takes or uses images of children for your organisation has permission to do so.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides guidance on data protection (ICO, 2019a).

Further guidance about encryption and data storage is also provided by the ICO (ICO, 2019b).

The Department for Education (DfE) has provided a data protection toolkit for schools in England, which includes information about the retention and storage of images of children (DfE, 2018). The best practice set out in this guidance may also be helpful to schools in other nations of the UK.

CCTV

CCTV and surveillance cameras

Your group, organisation or business might might think about using closed circuit television (CCTV) or surveillance systems as a way of helping keep children and young people safe. But before doing so you there are things need to consider:

  • whether this is justified
  • whether it is the most effective way to keep people safe
  • what impact it will have on people’s privacy
  • how you will ensure your system operates within the law, particularly the Data Protection Act 2018.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a code of practice for surveillance cameras (ICO, 2019c).

The ICO has also produced a checklist for organisations to use before installing CCTV (ICO, 2019d).

Ofsted provides information on how it inspects the use of surveillance in residential and childcare settings in England (Oftsed, 2019).

References and resources

References and resources

Ask the Police (2018) Q717: I want to take some photos / video footage in public, is it now illegal? [Accessed 13/12/2018].

Department for Education (DfE) (2018) Data protection: toolkit for schools. London: DfE.

Information Commisioner’s Office (ICO) (2019a) Guide to data protection. [Accessed 09/08/2019]

Information Commisioner’s Office (ICO) (2019b) Data storage. [Accessed 09/08/2019].

Information Commisioner’s Office (ICO) (2019c) In the picture: a data protection code of practice for surveillance cameras and personal information (PDF). [Wilmslow]: ICO

Information Commisioner’s Office (ICO) (2019d) CCTV checklist. [Accessed 13/08/19].

Ofsted (2019) Surveillance and monitoring in residential childcare settings: information for providers and managers on the use of surveillance, including CCTV, in their residential childcare settings and how Ofsted will evaluate its use. [Accessed 07/10/2019].

Thinkuknow (2018). Sharing pictures of your children online. London: National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command. [Accessed 12/11/2018]

Childline

If a child or young person needs confidential help and advice after an image of them has been shared online, direct them to Childline. Calls to 0800 1111 are free and children can also contact Childline online. They can get advice from the website about:

> Find out more about sexting and getting abusive images removed from the internet

You can also download or order Childline posters and wallet cards.

Elearning

Our elearning courses can help develop your understanding of how to protect children from abuse: