Thursday, 6 March 2008


The Daily Mail reports that a primary school has been accused of being alarmist for covering up the faces of pupils on its website – apparently to protect them from paedophiles. Bizarrely, the images have been altered with the type of smiley faces popular during the Acid House dance craze of the 1980s. The decision was taken at Cann Hall Primary School in Clacton, Essex.

Headmistress Clare Reece said yesterday: "The public nature of the internet is an issue we feel strongly about. "Not all parents want their children's picture on there. You can't say what is going to happen with any of those pictures." She said that the photographs were printed unaltered in the school newsletter which was sent to parents. But on the primary's website, the children's faces are obscured. The school guarantees the content of the site is "child friendly", adding: "In order to protect our children, we have made the decision not to include any photos of our pupils on this website."

Previously, faces were simply blurred, but newer pictures, including action shots of the athletics tournament, use the smiley faces. However, one child in a line-up of medal winners has been singled out – he alone has been given a sad face.

Children's charity NCH yesterday said that schools were right to be cautious about putting children's pictures on the internet if they were vulnerable or in care. However, spokesman Shaun Kelly added: "The images shocked me, actually. What message is it giving? It looks very, very odd. If you want to obscure children's faces you can obscure them with pixels. We need to be cautious about taking images of children out of the media."

Frank Furedi, a sociology professor at the University of Kent, said the school was being alarmist.
"Every time a school takes silly measures, it says we see the world through the eyes of a paedophile. They think that any innocent picture of school children will somehow be subverted and manipulated. These pictures serve a very important purpose of giving children clear images of their experiences, something they can remember later in life. Depriving ourselves of these experiences is not only irrational but serves no purpose whatsoever."

How silly. I really worry that paedophiles and all the undesirables in our society will win if we deprive children the pleasure of seeing their successes reported on in the local newspaper or on the internet. Let children have their moment without being told that they could be put at risk for simply enjoying their success.

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