Posting Student Photos on Social Media: Do’s and Don’ts for Teachers and Parent Volunteers

Have you ever met a nun?

Before last week, my girls had not, which is shocking considering they spend their days in a Catholic school attached to a Catholic church. Even more shocking considering our Irish family has been Catholic since some druid dude over 1,500 years ago decided to abandon trees in favor of crosses. Crosses that were made out of trees. I guess it wasn’t that big of a leap for him.

So what precipitated my girls’ first encounter with a nun?

Their school has invited a group of nuns from Nashville to operate the school.

Forget what you might have seen in movies, nuns are a scarce commodity in Catholic schools. Not one of the 36 Catholic schools in the Dallas area (collectively educating over 14,000 students) has a nun on staff.

Hopefully my girls’ school will be the first to welcome nuns back into Catholic education in Dallas.

So back to the encounter. The order of nuns considering a move to the school came last week to tour the school and meet with the faculty, staff, and students. Kind of like the home dates on The Bachelor. No, not really. Sorry, bad mom joke.

I wasn’t there to see it, but thanks to the miracle of social media and our school’s very technologically savvy communications director, I got to experience all of it. Nuns shooting the breeze with my fifth grader’s class during lunch. Nuns giving high fives and hugs in my second grader’s class. Nuns cheerfully trying to engage sullen teenagers in my eight grader’s class.

My kids’ school is not alone with sharing photos of students online. In fact, in today’s social media obsessed world where over 300 million photos a day are uploaded to Facebook, parents expect and enjoy it.

Well, not all. In fact, some don’t. Really don’t. And their rights to protect their child’s privacy should and must be respected.

Whether you are a teacher or a parent volunteer in the classroom, here are some do’s and don’ts for sharing photos of students on social media.

Do make sure the parent of every student who appears in a photo has signed a parental consent/opt-in form.

Remember that big stack of papers that came home on the first day of school? I remember it well. It took me two hours and a couple glasses of wine to fill them out four times for four kids. Hopefully, a parental consent/opt-in for sharing photos on social media was included in the packet (it was in mine).

The consent/opt-in form should explicitly allow students faces to be shown. If it doesn’t, your photos should only show students from behind or with their faces obscured. Be careful about reflections (sunglasses, windows, etc.).

Your school doesn’t have a consent/op-in form? You can advocate for one, but until they do, don’t post photos online. In fact, don’t take any photos at all.

Do review your school or district’s social media guidelines.

Review policies as to what can and cannot be posted online.

Your school or district’s policy should have guidelines to safeguard student privacy. For example, there are federal laws that protect student privacy. Your school’s guidelines should prohibit photos that reveal student names, addresses, ID numbers, grades, etc. Even handwriting is protected because it can identify the student.

How could you inadvertently reveal this information? Naming students in posts, tagging parents, photos that show class work or the names of kids, kids wearing name or ID tags in photos, using student names when naming files, just to name a few.

Don’t post photos on your personal social media account.

That consent/opt-in form parents sign? That’s for the school’s social media accounts, not your own. Don’t post any photos to your personal account (or tag yourself).

Do talk to the students about social media.

We all can remember the times we were thoroughly embarrassed at school. Falling flat on your face in P.E. class? The week after your mom’s attempt to trim your bangs ended in an unfortunate scissoring disaster? The ridiculous game involving toilet paper the room mom insisted everyone play at the Halloween party?

For us moms and dads, those moments are lost to everywhere except the back recesses of our mind.

Thanks to everyone and their mother being tethered to smart phones, our kids are not so fortunate.

Take the time to talk to the kids about why you want to share photos on social media. Give them the chance to say no, and respect their decision.

For more information on the legalities of posting photos of other people’s children on social media, check out Is It Okay to Post Photos of Other People’s Kids on Facebook without Permission?

What’s your policy about posting photos of other people’s kids on social media? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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