Updated: Aug 13, 2020
The early years is a funny old sector to work in. We have to care and nurture whilst building business and increasing occupancy. We have to share and promote our settings whilst maintaining compliance with GDPR and safeguarding. We have to meet a plethora of regulations whilst meeting individual needs. No wonder early years leaders are so busy! As society changes and grows, becoming consumed in social media and online activity, the debate continues about the use of social media in the early years. We know that our potential customers, the families we are keen to walk through our door, are on social media every day, so is there a place for social media within our sector? If so, how can we use this safely and professionally to support the growth of our settings, particularly during these difficult times?
Sharing good practice can be a starting point. Sharing the wonderful environments within your setting, along with the educational, playful activities you provide can be a brilliant way to showcase your setting, bringing your setting to the families rather than waiting for them to step through the door. Moreover, sharing your good practice can be super inspiring. Sharing images of our settings, environments and activities can be empowering for other settings and may well go a long way in supporting the development of those settings by seeing other ways of working. Seeing an amazing environment, rich in learning opportunities and looking so inviting can spur on practitioners who are looking to improve their childcare offer. This can be so powerful.
Sharing your environments and activities with parents can also be a useful tool. If you are sharing in a closed Fb group for example, parents who use your setting will see the daily activities their child is accessing. This will not only help them feel comfortable and happy, knowing their child is happy, but may also encourage them to play more with their children at home. Your images may inspire parents to engage in activities at home, providing them with ideas on how to play with their child.
A closed Facebook group just for current families, may feel safer in terms of GDPR and safeguarding as only parents are in the group. Whilst this is great for all the reasons above, this wont be useful in terms of marketing. If you use a page or open group, this is more useful from a marketing perspective, but the whole world and his wife will be able to see your setting and children. Again, it’s a balance. Parents will need to feel confident that the use of their child’s image is sensitively and professionally done and that they have the right to remove their permission at any time.
It is also important that you feel confident in your use of social media and the use of children’s images on the internet as a part of your marketing or sharing of your setting. Make sure your marketing policy is clear and available to parents. Often, parents and staff will feel nervous about their images being used and may not give their permission. It is important to talk this through and find out they this is, you may learn a lot about a family or member of your team this way.
Even where there is permission from a parent to take a child’s photo, gaining permission from the child at that point is essential. Asking a child, “Can I take a photo of your masterpiece” or “Could I take your photo please?” is so powerful. How do you feel when someone wants to take a photo of you and you just don’t want them to? How do you feel when you realise someone has photographed something of importance to you without your permission? If a child does not want their photo taken then their wishes must be respected. How often have you popped into a room and snapped a few pics without checking with the child? We have all done it, but the child’s wishes and permission is so important.
As sector professionals have a duty of care to the children in our settings and safeguarding will always be paramount. However, we live in a digital age where almost everything is online. Our children are part of this and will grow up within this online revolution There will always be a debate on the appropriateness of children’s images being used in online marketing materials, and as social media grows and becomes more prevalent in our lives, the debate will surely continue. Making sure images shared are contextual and for a purpose, not just for the sake of putting a post on a Facebook page is essential to getting the balance right.
What is important is that you make the decisions around social media usage after careful consideration, discussion, and research. Exploring the pros and cons of using social media to share your setting, considering the impact on the children in question, taking into account the views of the parents and staff and the legislative aspects.
Early years in an ever evolving beast, as is use of social media. Whilst the sector evolves alongside social platforms, the debate for and against using images of children will also continue to evolve. The importance lies with keeping our children safe, ensuring safeguarding is at the forefront of everything we do and we remain compliant in our use of and storage of such images. Having both the express permission of the parent and the child ensures sensitivity and demonstrates that the child is at the very heart of everything we do in the sector.