Today was my least favourite day of swimming lessons. No, not report day, that was yesterday (one boy moving up, one boy retaking a level; they both progressed nicely). Nope, it was photo day. In theory, parents are allowed on deck at the end of the last class to take pictures of their own children only, off to the side. In reality, it’s a bit of a free-for-all with people taking pictures or video of entire classes while they swim.
You may have noticed there aren’t any photos of the beautiful boys on this blog. I don’t use Instagram or post pictures of them on Twitter either. I don’t even post pictures of their faces on Facebook. So not surprisingly, I don’t really care for strangers taking photos of my children, even inadvertently, and especially at the public pool.
This morning, as usual, I watched as parents took pictures, with most of their child’s class clearly visible on their view screens, and waited to see if the instructors or supervisors would say anything. Of course none of them did. The city has a policy—I know because I double-checked once after I caught a lifeguard rolling her eyes at me when I asked her to stop someone taking a picture that included my kids during recreational swimming. But as far as I can see very little is done to enforce it. In fact “photo day” could be any day, as people take photos with their phones and tablets from the gallery throughout the session. Who’s to say these are even parents of a child in the pool?
Am I paranoid? Maybe. Does that matter? I don’t think it does. Yes, most likely the people taking pictures are not actually trying to get my kids, or any others besides their own, in the frame. But they aren’t trying very hard not to, either. I’ve been told I can’t stop parents from taking pictures of their children at events. I’m not suggesting that. But how hard is it to pull your own child aside and ensure no one else is in the picture? When it comes to privacy, why not err on the side of respecting others? Surely I’m not completely alone in my concern—despite the lack of enforcement, the policy was presumably put in place for a reason. So why is the onus on my husband or me to approach photo-happy parents when we notice our children are on their camera screens—something we’ve done more than once. It doesn’t always go over well…
Some have asked me what the big deal is: am I worried about my children’s images being used in an indecent manner? That’s a very small part of it—but it does happen (I have a friend whose profession requires him to deal with this sort of thing…) It’s more about privacy, about being able to control their online presence and where their images end up, as much as I can. I have no clue what that stranger is going to do with that photo including my child—where it will be posted, who else will see it, who will share it. I don’t like the idea of their photos just being “out there”. And if you asked my husband, he’d say it’s for their future—when they grow up, they may not appreciate what we have posted online about them, so we try to keep it at a minimum. (Yes I’m aware this blog could be considered oversharing, though I also believe the stories I tell are mine as much as theirs. You may have also noticed I don’t use their names.)
I’ve also been told I can’t protect my children from being “seen” by random strangers any time I take them out in public. But I think photos are a different matter—they are permanent, especially in the age of internet. Once something is posted online, it’s there forever. Still others have pointed out anyone with a phone could be taking pictures of the boys for reasons both innocent and nefarious at any time. And I know security cameras are all around us.
Maybe I am fighting a losing battle. But I’m not quite ready to wave the white flag and surrender completely.