We Should Talk – Are You Using Student Photos Online?

Student photos, and especially linking names with specific photos, is a common concern that comes up when blogging, sharing videos, or using other web services online.

Information that helps someone identify a student should always be shared with care.

What you need to consider

Even though 99.99% of visitors to your class blog will be well meaning parents, students, community members, or interested visitors from around the world, the unfortunate reality is that those with bad intentions can also visit public sites. There are also cases where the personal background of a student might mean they need more privacy and anonymity than others.

Decisions on whether to use student photographs or not is often about protecting educators from having problems with parents, caregivers or administrators who have concerns about cyber-predators.

Before using any student photos online, even on a private blog, you need to:

  • Find out your school, district or Education Department guidelines for sharing student photos online — make sure you follow these guidelines.
  • Find out if there are forms caregivers and students need to sign to consent to use of student photos online — make sure you have all forms signed by parents or caregivers.
  • Respect the wishes of caregivers and students while understanding consent to use photos can be withdrawn at any time.

Remember it isn’t possible to stop parents, students and caregivers from downloading photos and sharing them on their social networks, even if you are using a private blog.  If you don’t want a photo shared on a social network then don’t upload the photo.

Saving an image

How easy it is to share an image!

Our recommendations

  • Avoid the use of any photos that can identify individual students.  A safe compromise is to only use photo taken from behind students.
  • Don’t use student photos for their avatars.
  • If you do use any photos of students – don’t use their name in the file name and don’t refer to the student by name, even their first name, in the caption under the photo or in the post.

A safe photo

Student photo example

Having fun on the school excursion on the Cliff Walk at Capilano Suspension Bridge

This photo has been taken from behind.  Students can’t be recognized and the photo doesn’t refer to any individual student.

What you shouldn’t do

john_smith

John having a great time on our school camp

The photo above has been named john_smith.jpg , includes the name of the student in the caption and you could identify the student from the photo.

Also any one could easily find this image in Google Images, due to the file name john_smith.jpg,  if the blog was set to ‘Allow search engines to index this site’.

But if you do….

Student photo example

Having fun on our school camp!

If you are allowed to use photos where you can recognize individual students, and you have decided you want to do this, then we recommend you word the photo like the example above so it doesn’t include the student’s name and DON”T rename the file name to include the student’s first and last name.

Don’t forget comments

These guidelines also need to apply to any one leaving comments on the blog.

If a family member is writing a comment, they should identify themselves as “_____’s mom” or “______’s dad”, instead of using their name and they shouldn’t refer to name of the student in the photo.

What do you think?

What advice would you give?  What resources do you use with students to teach them about Internet Safety and privacy?

Let us know in the comments below and we will be sure to add it to the post!

Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

7 Responses

  1. joprestia says:

    Yes! Totally agree you should never reveal the identity of children on line. I also like to blur or artistically manipulate the photos in some way if I’m posting them – just as a precaution.

  2. Louise Morgan says:

    Great post! I love using pictures of my students in action on our class blog, but I never identify them by name. On THEIR blogs I never post pictures of their faces but I do post pictures of their drawings or other creations.

  3. tilgunas1 says:

    I also agree. One of the rules in my class is that we don’t upload photos of ourselves or others onto student blogs. As for our school website, parents must sign a media release form before we allow images online (so there aren’t too many, because it’s difficult to match photos w/students at a huge school). I agree with all your guidelines!

  4. Gail says:

    I am happy to see a timely post like this. Time changes things and while I had years of all parents giving their permission for the use of student photos, I now have a handful who say no to news media and yes for school purposes like web sites. I understand that law enforcement parents don’t want criminals to make any connections to their children. I also know that I have little control over the use of a photo once I use it in a blog. A quick search for an image shows us that many people claim the image as their own when it fact it was not created by them.
    Because some parents don’t want the photo shared in some instances, and because I know that my postings can be harvested and used in other ways, I am mulling over presenting any pictures online. There are so many kids with exceptions that I want to figure this out a bit better, maybe revise the permission form to be clearer so I know who really doesn’t want their child’s photo shared in a more public sense.
    Still learning with Edublogs!

  5. Chris doyle says:

    Well I suppose the advice you give is correct but I find it very annoying and immensely paranoid. What the hell is everyone scared of nowadays at all (legislation I suppose and the possibility of being sued by some (phoney) irate (money grabbing) paren! It’squite pathetic really. Meanwhile your students are sharing all kind of photograph and video without a second thought and most of them will have location finders on their devices logging where they are posting from. The world is not full of child offenders checking the Internet all day. Perhaps all kids should wear scarfs over their heads ala Michael Jackson until they are 18?

  6. merrybeau says:

    Very timely post.
    I love the creative challenge of having a class blog that gets the children’s personalities across with out using any photos in which the children can be identified.
    We have experimented with angles, distance, silhouettes and using props like hats and masks. I would like to use video footage of classwork but once again, will have to be inventive so that the children’s faces cannot be seen.
    I prefer this level of safety. For me a ‘blanket ban’ on using photos in which anyone can be recognised means that all parents are happy that I am taking precautions.
    With every good wish

  7. Becky Springsteen says:

    I don’t list names but I do post many pictures. For the working parent who misses out on school activities it’s nice for them to have a weekly snapshot of what has taken place at school. I post every week and numerous parents have told me how they can’t wait til I update it Friday morning so they can see what’s been going on!I use Instagram where my students and parents follow me and that has worked nicely but not every parent/student utilizes it so my blog is the best place to put the pictures.

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