So you’re a kidmin worker…
…and you took some of the cutest (or coolest) pictures (maybe even some videos) of the kids…
…and you naturally want to share them online (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.)…
… and just as you are about to click UPLOAD, something stops you and you think:
Should I share these pictures online?
Am I allowed to upload these pics?
Great questions: “should you”? and “am I allowed”?
It’s a natural feeling to want to share pictures and videos of what you are doing in your life. I mean, in the current social media revolution world we live in, that’s what everyone is doing. And it isn’t all bad!
However, we (as children’s ministry workers) need to be cautious and very careful regarding how we share pictures and videos of other people’s children. Because that is what they are: other people’s children.
So if you want to post pictures of children in your ministry:
You need to ask permission.
This might go against the current technological grain, but it’s an important and appropriate step if you are posting on behalf of an organization (i.e. like a church or a camp).
At my church, we use what we call the Blue Sheet or Blue Info card. This is our standard, fill-out-information card. It asks for all the pertinent information from a family (i.e. birthdays, phone numbers, emails, address, etc.), but it also contains 3 “legalese” sections: Permission (to attend the event/ministry), Medical Release (in case of an emergency), and a Media Release (so we can take pictures of them and use them for promotional means and Internet sharing). So we ask for signed, written permission.
You need to be smart.
This might sound subjective (and it is), but that’s how we’re writing the rules and practices in this fast-paced, digital world right now. I have yet to come across a resource that gives specific, hard and fast guidelines for children and youth pastors on how to use the digital space (if you have, let me know!). You need to be smart.
For instance, I had a counselor last year at our Kids Camp who is an avid blogger. She wanted to post some pictures of the girls in her cabin (more group pictures, not individual pics). She approached me (and I’m glad she did) and asked if it was okay. Now I had already asked permission of the parents of the campers (the media release was on their registration form that they signed). However, any pics or videos of their children, a parent would expect to see on the official Kids Camp website, not some random blog out there in cyberspace.
My wisdom to this counselor was: I would NEVER post a picture of a student in our children or youth ministry on my personal Facebook page. That kind of stuff would go on the official Facebook page for that ministry. Since her blog wasn’t officially (and organizationally) tied to the camp, I felt it would be inappropriate for her to post pictures. This counselor was great because she understood.
If you find yourself pausing before uploading a picture, or second-guessing whether or not you should upload, don’t.
In this arena, it is better to NOT post a picture or video than it is to do so.
One caveat to these “guidelines”:
I would post a picture of a child if I am relationally connected to them in my role outside of kidmin worker or youth pastor (and if I asked permission). I’m part of an adult small group, and there are a lot of children in this group. I could imagine posting some pictures after we had done an event or fun activity and there being some children in the photo or video. I think this is okay.
I’m going to stop here. There might be more guidelines and parameters to using the Internet and social media in children’s ministry, but what do you think?