Collect memories, not photographs.

I started a little something on Twitter the other day. I ran a poll asking whether people think it’s acceptable to use their phones to take photographs in schools and childcare settings.

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A dad takes a photograph of a school play. Do us parents really need to take photographs in school settings, or should we collect memories instead?

This was, I confess, partly inspired by something that happened at my youngest daughter’s recent Nativity play. Despite the headteacher standing up at the front and reminding mums and dads the school’s policies did not permit them to shoot video or take photographs, the mum sat directly in front of me did exactly that when her offspring appeared on stage.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, but for the fact her phone was about the size of Australia. When she leant over to start filming, it was like a solar eclipse, her phone coming between the stage and I and blocking my view. Instead of seeing what was happening on stage 10 metres in front of me, I got a superb view of her, about 50cms in front of me, filming what was on stage.

Worse still, I recognised her. We have history. The year before, the Christmas play had been standing room only. This particular individual stood right in front of Mrs Adams and I, talked throughout the performance and, yes, you guessed it, hauled out her phone and started filming whenever her kid did something on stage. It was more than a little irritating for this to happen two years in a row.

Mrs Adams and I spoke about the whole thing afterwards. My wife was deeply unimpressed, but she did see the funny side when I pointed out that Video Mum, as I shall call her, had filmed the entire thing portrait-style instead of horizontal so it would look rubbish on YouTube and many other social media channels.

Getting back to the poll, I was just curious to know what people thought. I had no intention of writing a blog post, but my poll resonated with some and quite a few people didn’t simply vote but responded with interesting comments.

I also found the results fascinating. Those against using phones in school and nursery settings took an early and convincing lead.

Several people who responded told me about the policies their children’s schools enforced. They all differed slightly but there was a broad consensus that parents could take one or two pictures of their own child at a special event, such as at a school play. The one condition schools seemed to universally apply was that images must not appear on social media.

collect memories

I feel for teachers having to police this. It’s almost impossible and I have personal experience of my kids’ images being taken at school and ending up on other people’s social media channels without me being asked beforehand. For that reason, the final result left me feeling concerned.

Yeah yeah, it wasn’t remotely scientific, I get that. Even so, the split was 60% against taking pictures, 40% in favour. I was dismayed by the number of people who felt it was acceptable. I know we all own the technology that enables us to record every moment of our kids’ lives, but does that mean we should use it for that reason?

At Izzy’s last school sports day, I noticed a dad in the crowd. To be honest, it was difficult not to notice this guy. He stood out because every time his child did something, out came the phone and he recorded it.

I find it terribly sad when I see this behaviour and I see it all the time. Some parents live their kids’ lives on the screen of their phone. Instead of witnessing unmissable, unique moments in their children’s lives, they filter it with technology.

I know many will disagree with me, but I hold an uncompromising stance. I genuinely see no good reason to take photographs or shoot video in school and childcare settings. I simply don’t do it. I have no pictures or video of my kids at sports day, Nativity or at any other school function and I don’t want any. I want to have memories, not jpeg or video files.

Let me get in there and say that yes, like every parent, I do take images of my kids and shoot video with them (I am a family blogger after all). I merely think there is a time and a place.

Children must learn when it is acceptable to use such tech. Seeing mums and dads freely filming at school functions sends a poor message.

There is one further and very compelling reason why I think we should all be very cautious when and how we take pictures of our children.

In every school, there are a small number of looked after children. Some of these kids have traumatic family backgrounds and may have been removed from the family home and changed school for their own safety. The implications of these kids having an identifiable image accidentally ending up on Facebook or another social media channel doesn’t bear thinking about.

This wasn’t something I ever considered until I got talking to a headteacher who said this was his greatest concern. Every time I see a parent at school haul out their mobile phone, this is what goes through my mind.

So where do you stand? Have you had to endure a Video Mum or Video Dad? Do you think it is your right to record your kids’ life wherever you are? Are you like me and much more reserved in taking pictures and shooting video?

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3 Comments

  1. January 16, 2019 / 1:06 am

    That’s a good question, but cell phones didn’t exist when my nephews were little and the biggest regret I have is not taking more photos. When my youngest nephew sweetly asked for a video I’d taken of him at his high school graduation, both of us were crushed when I couldn’t find it. (He gave a hilarious speech as valedictorian and none of us remember it as it deserves to be remembered and then we lost him about 7 years later.)
    But yes, there’s child safety to consider and I can’t imagine what a free for all these functions can turn into. I’ve witnessed some pretty awful behavior without phones or cameras, I can’t imagine. A local school recently banned parents from their kid’s basketball games because of this behavior.
    I guess whenever you take photos you have to think about all of this, especially when there are children.

  2. January 17, 2019 / 6:55 pm

    You can video/photo children at our school but you need to blank out faces etc… if posting on Social Media. Some parents take iPads and film the whole play! Most wait until the end and take a snap then which I think is far more sensible.

    • John Adams
      Author
      January 18, 2019 / 10:22 am

      Thanks for commenting Steve. If a half-way house must be found, I think a snap at the end is sensible. In fact, I’d be all in favour of it if schools put up a simple backdrop and said at the end of a performance that you could take pictures there. Kids who couldn’t be photographed could be entertained by a teacher elsewhere and everyone would get there picture in a safe way. Alas, I can see why schools don’t do this. More to the point, there seems ot be a mentality among some parents that they can do what they like so wouldn’t abide by this anyway. I don’t know what the solution is, but we presently seem to have a free for all which is not helpful for anyone.