Photography and sharing images guidance

Topics: Safeguarding and child protection

Guidance for photographing and recording children during events and activities

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 their family have experienced abuse they may worry about the perpetrator tracing them online. Or children who choose not to have contact with some members of their family may decide to minimise their online presence.

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

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

> Find out more about child protection and safeguarding


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

Children should always be consulted about the use of their image and give consent to it being used. They must be aware that a photo or video is being taken and understand what the image is going to be used for. You should ask them how they feel about the image being shared online and record this on a written consent form.

For young people under 16, you should also get parental consent to use an image. Make sure parents and carers are aware of your photography and filming policy statement. Ask them to sign a written consent form.

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 consider whether it is 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 you should 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.

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

> 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. You may want to develop an acceptable use policy for photographs and videos taken at your activities and events.

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.

Parents or carers should ensure their privacy settings are set so only their friends can see their profile and photos, and that geo-location settings are not shared. Before posting a picture, parents or carers should 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.

Whenever possible, parents should 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.

Storing images

Storing images securely

Images or video recordings of children must be kept securely. Hard copies of images should be kept in a locked drawer and electronic images should be in a protected folder with restricted access.

Images should not be stored on unencrypted portable equipment such as laptops, memory sticks and mobile phones.

Never use personal equipment to take photos and recordings of children on behalf of your school or organisation. Only use cameras or devices belonging to the organisation.

Organisations that store and use photographs to identify children and adults for official purposes, such as identity cards, should ensure they are complying with the legal requirements for handling personal information.

Further guidance can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website (Information Commissioner’s Office, 2018).

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].

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website

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


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.


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