This Is When I Despair

Hi Readers! I usually don’t like to comment on the comments — “Everyone’s entitled to his own opinion,” etc. etc. –but this time I must. This comment arrived in response to the story I posted last night (below this one) about a teacher who wanted an author to speak to her fourth grade class. Since the  school and the author are 1000 miles apart, the author suggested using the video-chat service Skype. The teacher said no — not unless he could come up with a way the kids could see HIM, but not vice versa.

Then, to add insult to injury, here is what someone commented right here, on Free-Range Kids:

“The zesthnzybb
teacher is likely (legitimately) concerned that the kids’ faces could end up plastered all over the internet.”

Excuse me? Legitimately concerned that —

1 – A children’s author she has invited will turn around and take photos of her class and post them without permission?  That that’s what men do all the time? Can’t trust ’em for a second?

2 – That boring photos of a 4th grade class are so exciting that they will take the Internet by storm? (Because, of course, there are so few photos of school children available.)

3 – That someone will see this particular photo, obsessively focus on the kid in the third row and move heaven and earth to come find this child and stalk, rape or kill him/her? And that we must keep Third Row Kid safe at all costs?

These are insane fantasies! Perfect, text-book examples of the way so many of us now jump to the absolutely WORST CASE SCENARIO and then work backward from it, preventing something harmless or even wonderful from ever taking place just in case. Using this method of risk calculation, a teacher could politely request that from now on, no one serve her students lunch at school. Because what if one of the lunch ladies is secretly a psychopath and she is intent on murdering the kids one by one? It COULD happen, right? Let’s be prepared for the ABSOLUTE WORST! After all, we’re only thinking about the good of the children!

I am so sick of this “We must protect the children” attitude when we are NOT PROTECTING THEM FROM ANYTHING! We are simply seeing everyone in every capacity as a potential nut job and then we act accordingly. Who’s the nut job there? 

In this case, take your pick:  The paranoid teacher preventing an author from Skyping her class. The paranoid commenter saying, “She has a legitimate safety concern.” Or the paranoid country that thinks every time a child has ANY interaction with ANY adult, even from 1000 miles away, those children are in GRAVE DANGER.

When people think that way — and congratulate themselves for being so “caring” (not to mention clever! And proactive!) — THAT is when I despair.


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84 Responses to This Is When I Despair

  1. Lisa September 17, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    So, what was the teacher going to do if the author came to the class IN PERSON? Have the kids wear bags over their heads? Camouflage their voices if they asked questions? Escort the author in blindfolded so he couldn’t know the exact location of the school?
    Sheesh. I’m a really cautious parent, but this is insane.

  2. Bradley Wogsland September 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    The world gets turned on it’s head sometimes, doesn’t it?

  3. liz September 17, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    I have to presume this teacher and her students live somewhere without security cameras, without school pictures, where snapshots are never taken, and where the kids are never even in the background of someone else’s video or photo. Those too could get posted to the Internet!

  4. sonya September 17, 2009 at 9:47 pm #

    I think we’re giving the teacher a hard time unnecessarily. She’s just following the rules – probably not all the kids’ parents have signed the form allowing their image to be put on the internet. And legally, sending video by skype might be viewed as “image on the internet”. And as I said in my other post, what she’s asking for (1-way video) can easily be done with skype.

  5. Leigh September 17, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    I wonder if the school these children attend still do school pictures?

    Because, I don’t know about you, but my daughter’s school does, and they are all digital now, I can even preview, select, and pay on a secure website what photos I want for myself. A lot more risk of pictures of school aged children getting in the wrongs hands then using skype. (Which of course this digital method doesn’t bother me any, makes ordering pictures easier, and there is no waste!)

    My point being, if we are going to ban a CHILDREN’S author for possibly looking at our children, then we need to ban school photos also.

    Insane, just insane.

  6. Steve September 17, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

    Using Skype is not in any way tantamount to putting your picture “on the Internet” any more than having a telephone call is equivalent to “putting your voice on the radio” because the person on the other end could record the call and send it to NPR. Skype uses the Internet to connect phone calls. So does Vonage, and if you have Comcast phone or some other similar service, guess where your calls are being routed! The evil Internet!

    The Skype call is not accessible to anybody other than the parties on either end. If this is not considered secure enough for the school, then neither would having the speaker come in person. Is this the school’s policy?

  7. Jason September 17, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

    Thank you! I was just about to compose a reply in that thread to that very comment. News flash: there are millions of photos on the Internet. Nobody is going to notice the one of your kid’s fourth-grade class, even if the author started writing children’s books as a nefarious, years-long scheme to take secret photos of your child sitting at his desk. Calling this “insane” is being kind. “Idiotic” is more like it.

  8. CJ September 17, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    I am of two minds about this issue. Yes, it seems unlikely that the author would be able to capture student images via Skype and plaster them up on the internet. But a lot of schools have tighter restrictions in place regarding the images of children due to legitimate concerns about child custody issues. Some children are unfortunately in hiding from a parent who does not have custody of them, due to domestic violence or similar issues. Many have to change their names to hide from these psycho parents. Now there are advanced photo search programs – you upload a photo, tell the computer to find any photo with similar characteristics, and bam – now you have found your child’s photo from some school function they attended and it is easy to go kidnap them. Does this happen every day? No, of course not. But this is the scenario that schools are guarding against, far-fetched as it may seem.

  9. Janka September 17, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    CJ, the only realistic way the Skype pictures will end up in the internet proper (as in, available to a stalker etc) is if the author posts them. The Skype call is not visible to anyone else. In theory, it could be cracked, similarly as say a letter or email to/from the child could be interrupted, but that requires work, and in practice that the intercepter knows that the call is happening and has interesting info for them — in which case, of course, they already know where the child is, and do not need to take the trouble.

    Thus, following that line of thought you present, because children sometimes have to hide, we should ban any and all visitors to schools, as well as school trips, because they could very believably be used by someone posing as, say, an author, or a passer-by, in order to look for a child in hiding. That does not really seem practical.

  10. CJ September 17, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    My point is that I see this more as a problem of understanding how Skype works, rather than a problem of overprotecting. Skype is a total mystery to most school administrators and parents, so I can see them choosing to avoid the problem altogether rather they trying to teach everyone Internet Tech 101.

  11. babelbabe September 17, 2009 at 10:22 pm #

    How cool is it that the author is willing to do this? And then he has to cope with this??

    I am irritable because I am coming off a conversation with a friend who is complaining about having to get out her car TWICE (two schools) to show ID and personally pick up her child. I linked her to your book and encouraged her to find a solution. Instead of just complaining but then expressing apprecitaion that the shcool is “protecting [her] kids from pervs.”

    And I? Crossed my kids at the busy dangerous main road today and let them walk the rest of the way to school. (Baby steps…but seriously? I have nearly been run over twice trying to cross this main street, and I am a 150-lb adult)

  12. Waltz September 17, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    It’s a children’s author, right? I mean, it’s not like the president of the US trying to talk to children….
    I understand what CJ is saying, but there are so many other opportunities at school where pictures, pictures, not a closed streaming video chat, could wind up on the internet. One must assume parents of those children take the proper precautions and notify the proper people at the school to avoid any such issues.
    If you want to see how out of control this line of thinking can get just look at England. Parents are not allowed to take pictures of their own children in a public park if there are any other children nearby. I’m not talking nearby in the picture. I mean off camera nearby. Parents have been detained and arrested for taking pictures of just their own children IN PUBLIC.

  13. Paige Bruce September 17, 2009 at 10:25 pm #

    Hear, hear! I might not be a parent just yet, but I don’t think the equivalent of “wrapping your kids in bubble wrap so they never bruise their knees” ever works, as the kids themselves will eventually find a way around it.

    Glad I was pointed this way through Twitter.

  14. Jason September 17, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    “choosing to avoid the problem altogether rather they trying to teach everyone Internet Tech 101”? Oh, boo-hoo. If you can’t be bothered to keep up with the world around you, retire. “It’s too complicated” is not a valid excuse for not doing your job.

  15. Tamara September 17, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    And then your kids become gangly adolescents and you realize that it is highly unlikely anyone is going to search the hallways of XYZ school just to find your pimply little darling. Sheesh.

    I was involved with a similar situation regarding group photos of kids (unnamed) posted on the church website. After *much* debate, it was reluctantly agreed that there was little to no risk from posting group shots.

  16. beanie September 17, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    Paranoid, Self-absorbed Morons…they’re out there.

    I just wish we could teach them not to vote. I won’t say for which party…

  17. snarkyFish September 17, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    Hmm.. I’d say in future don’t give trolls airtime on your blog. This didn’t deserve a special post in response. The content of the blog will end up suffering as you respond to looneys.

    By all means, flame her in your comments though. : )

    Just my $.02. Keep up the good fight Lenore!

  18. Valerie September 17, 2009 at 10:49 pm #

    I noticed this same alarm expressed in the article you quoted in your Sept 10 article, about the Dad who was in trouble for photographing his own kids on the slide. That article says “One even accused him of photographing youngsters to put the pictures on the internet.”

    “Put pictures on the internet” seems to have become a new danger to children. God save our children from such a gruesome fate.

  19. MFA Grad September 17, 2009 at 10:56 pm #

    I posted a more detailed reply on the previous thread, but I agree with those posting here about how this reaction probably has a lot to do with unfamiliarity with Skype in particular and how capturing screenshots on the internet works in general. Janka is right that it’s possible to “crack” the video stream in the same way it’s possible for someone to hijack your mail or an email, but 1) it’s rare & 2) it usually requires knowledge of where the stream is going/coming from rather than random trolling, and in that case, if someone’s already paying that much attention, a hijacked video stream & screenshots are the least of your worries.

    Sure, schools may be choosing “avoid the problem all together rather than trying to teach everyone internet Tech 101” but I’m with Jason on this one – what’s the point of going to a school – an institution based on the passage of knowledge from one generation to the next – that doesn’t bother keeping up with emerging technology? The school should damn well require it’s teachers & administrators to keep up with the latest in communications technology, especially since it’s the tech their students are growing up with and NEED TO LEARN how to use properly. Reactions like this are only going to prolong the students’ ignorance about how tech like Skype works, or even make them afraid to use it. Or, considering how tech-savy kids tend to be these days, it’s going to make their teachers (and other similarly techno-challenged/fearing adults) seem more like techno-boobs more worthy of pity and scorn than respect. And that’s not going to be good for anyone.

  20. KarenW September 17, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    OK, honestly, this issue just has me downright confused. I feel like I’m from another planet or something. There’s a good chance my kids’ pictures ARE on the internet right now, and it never occurred to me that I should care! Our school district has a website that is filled with pictures of kids from all the schools. I may have signed a permission slip for the school to do this, but I can’t remember – it would have been too much of a non-issue for me to even give it a moment’s thought. Also, at my church, every kid’s event like Vacation Bible School includes someone going around taking random photos of the kids having fun. They post these pictures up on a wall at church, and probably on the internet, too. People actually care about stuff like this? Why???

  21. Dot Khan September 17, 2009 at 11:13 pm #

    If the teacher is willing to ask questions, she should start by asking the school officials about whether the regulations make any sense. That would require thinking for oneself instead of just learning to repeat back on a test what you were taught. No child left behind has put more emphasis on training kids to be parrots instead of learning how to be an independent thinker.

    When kids are not in school, they often hang around the mall. Some security cameras are monitored from someplace else over the internet. Are we to extend school policies to become laws to outlaw store security? Anything can be misused, cameras are intended for good but to automatically assume that they are going to be used for something bad is silly. In the building where the Yale student was murdered they helped find out who to arrest.

  22. jared September 17, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

    There are a couple safety concerns in play here. While I agree that the concern over the childrens’ safety is not legitimate, I’m not positive that’s what the original comment author was referring to.

    From the teacher’s original response, it sounds like her primary concern is over the school’s safety from litigation, and by extension the teacher’s safety from running afoul of some clumsily-worded (or outright stupid) rule or policy.

    It sounds to me like she made a judgment call between “permission slips and the associated hassle” and “eliminating the need for a permission slip by settling for an exercise that would be inferior for the author but just as good for her students.” As prior commentors have said, I’m not convinced this situation deserves the level of outrage on display. Or if so, I don’t think the outrage should be directed at the teacher so much as the a) overall school system that prevents non-crazy parents from choosing a non-crazy school, and b) lack of tort limits that would cap the damage that one or a few crazy parents could inflict on a teacher/school that consistently made saner (to us) judgment calls.

    Love the site overall; my first child is on the way.

  23. Kate September 17, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

    Okay, I know it’s not really funny, but this made me laugh out loud. I mean, it IS laughable, isn’t it? Gah.

  24. sylvia_rachel September 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    INSANITY. Seriously.

    We are not talking about making a video of the author visit and posting it for public consumption on YouTube. We are talking about a Skype call from one computer to another.

    But suppose, for the sake of argument, that somehow some random footage of the kids “got away” and ended up on a publicly accessible site. OH, THE HUMANITY!!!

    Um … why?

    What, exactly, are the DIRE CONSEQUENCES that might eventuate from this occurrence?

    Well, someone might see the kids’ photos. Et pis après? Well, okay: someone icky might see the kids’ photos. Yes, okay, they might — but so what? Unless each kid is clearly identified — first name, last name, full mailing address, etc. — what harm could anyone possibly do to any of the actual kids on the basis of just having seen their photos on the Internet somewhere? (I mean, even if the kids were so identified, the odds against their being directly harmed as a result are very high — but they wouldn’t be.)

    Yes, it is theoretically possible that the kids’ photos could end up publicly accessible. Yes, it is theoretically possible that, this having happened, someone with nefarious intentions might, with sufficiently determined and creative research, identify and locate one of the said kids. Yes, it is theoretically possible that such a person, having identified and located the kid, might go the distance and do something bad to him/her.

    But is any of these things probable? Is any of them actually likely to happen in real life? They’d make a great episode of Law & Order, admittedly. But that’s precisely because these events are so profoundly unlikely that the viewer might not see them coming. (Similarly, the kind of heist chronicled in films like The Thomas Crown Affair and Ocean’s Eleven and To Catch a Thief does not typify the real world of grand larceny. Burglary is generally much less complicated and much more opportunistic.)

    This is just SO RIDICULOUS. I mean, I’m sorry for shouting, but OMG!!

  25. Ben September 17, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    My kid’s school makes you sign a release in order to post his/her pictures on their website, but pretty much everyone signs it and you occasionally get to see what your kid is doing at school, which is nice because your kid probably won’t tell you!

    The teacher in this story must not be too bright, because the teacher could simply put something to cover the webcam in the classroom (isn’t that what duct tape is for) and have her one way visual.

  26. Stepan September 18, 2009 at 12:03 am #

    Leonore, you say: “In this case, take your pick: The paranoid teacher preventing an author from Skyping her class. ”

    First, as others have pointed out, this is much less about the teacher’s paranioa over the author being a perv or the “transmission being hacked” and more about her getting into trouble because many (most?) school require parental consent for sharing images of their children. I know, I recently signed one for my kindergartner.

    Second, the teacher is not preventing the author from Skyping her class. She’s asking whether it’s cool with him if he doesn’t get a video feed. They can still do a voice Skype (after all, he was offering Skype as an alternative to a phone call).

    Third, an in-person visit wouldn’t be an problem, unless the author wanted to take pictures/video of the kids. Then the same consent issues would arise.

    Fourth, I’m surprised that a children’s author isn’t aware of these issue. But hey, if griping about them stirs up some publicity, more power to him.

    BTW, if you use Skype, recording the video is trivial. Try Googling it:

    Disclaimer: I put pictures of my kids on the internet. And they use video Skype to chat with their grandparents in Europe.

  27. Jacquelyn September 18, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    I share your despair.

  28. jenny September 18, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    I think the unfamiliarity with technology like Skype is a big part of the problem. My son’s teacher is barely able to communicate by email, or figure out how to get her school website to allow people to subscribe when she updates it, even though its a turnkey website. She also has an ELMO smartboard in her classroom (see Google) and doesn’t use it because she can’t figure out how. Its probably no different than in other professions, some people just don’t want to learn how to work with technology, despite the fact that the kids could probably work it for them.

  29. Peter Brülls September 18, 2009 at 12:14 am #

    @MFA you don’ have to “hack” anything. Any normal screenshot utility will be able to take a still shot of the screen and thus the Skype session and screen recording utilities cost only a couple of bucks. On the latest Mac OS X version it’s even included with the OS.

  30. Robin September 18, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    Here’s something I’ve always found so interesting about photos on the Internet.

    When it comes to getting jobs, we are told to NOT submit a photo with our resumes. However, people everywhere now have Facebook accounts. Employers are Google’ing candidates before interviews.

    What then is the deal about photos of people, of any age?

  31. Ben, not the one who already posted September 18, 2009 at 12:22 am #

    “Now there are advanced photo search programs – you upload a photo, tell the computer to find any photo with similar characteristics, and bam – now you have found your child’s photo from some school function they attended and it is easy to go kidnap them.”

    There are? In real life or sci-fi movies? On iPhoto you can do this with photos on your own computer and it works very poorly.

  32. Rich Wilson September 18, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    There are already millions of pictures of school kids plastered all over the internet:

    What’s a few more? Seriously though, I wonder if we run the risk of over-counter-reacting. I think it’s good that teachers are aware of the fact that once an image leaves the school, they don’t have any control over it.

    What needs to happen is a common sense assessment of “does that matter?” Unfortunatley, the teacher’s real concern is the parents. It just takes one parent to freak out that her/his child’s image is ‘on the internet’ to make life miserable for that teacher. Easier to just avoid the issue.

    Or ask the parent if they have ever emailed a picture of their kid anywhere…

  33. Q September 18, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    Right–and IF an author did bother to make screenshots and post them online, THEN the teacher might have reason to be concerned. But has this EVER happened? Is there any reason to believe THIS author would be especially prone to do something like that?

  34. Halai September 18, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    I haven’t gone through the dozens of comments yet but if this was such a big deal why didn’t the teacher just switch off the video on Skype on his end and let the author be seen?

  35. Peter Brülls September 18, 2009 at 1:19 am #

    @ben In sci-fi movies and on CSI. In real live the best people have is something like tin-eye, which does indeed find similar pictures. Nothing like what the poster described, though.

  36. vespabelle September 18, 2009 at 1:58 am #

    I posted on a scrapbooking forum some photos of a scrapbook that I’d made for my daughter’s teacher which obviously included pictures of the kids in the class. I blocked out the school name but still people told me I was horrible person for posting it in public and that some pedo might be trolling scrapbooking sites to find victims!

  37. Tardy September 18, 2009 at 2:23 am #

    Odd since the parents probably have a lot more to fear from the school custodian who is in their presence everyday rather than from someone 1000 miles away.

  38. Marie Rush September 18, 2009 at 3:04 am #

    As someone who was recently terminated (as in fired) because of my use of Skype to reunite a teacher in Iraq with her colleagues and her students, and I had also very “scarily” planned to Skype in astronaut Dr. Bernard Harris to kick off career week for the sixth graders. I am the first to say that there is immense fear. Nuf said.

  39. Randy September 18, 2009 at 3:30 am #

    Unless a teacher was contracting someone intentionally to come in and photograph the kids for publication somewhere, I don’t see how this puts them at any more risk than they ordinarily face simply being out in public. Seems to me this whole fear could be avoided by a simple opt-out arrangement.

    Sure, maybe the teacher isn’t deserving of criticism, but unless someone makes a fuss about moronic rules they’ll never change. If she doesn’t have thick enough skin to withstand concerns about an ineffective “security” policy that cost these kids a learning experience, she’d never survive as a teacher.

    It’s amusing to me that people will get so paranoid about the silliest things. If those kids have ever had their portraits taken by a professional, they probably signed a release allowing the photographer to use the image to promote the business. By driving to the studio in public they implicitly agree to give up some measure of expectation of privacy… and, big surprise, when they interact with others they get seen and heard.

    But I guess when the big scary internet is involved some folks put their brains into neutral.

  40. Sam Caldwell September 18, 2009 at 3:53 am #

    When I get old, the people you are raising will be running this country.

    The thought of what we will be like at that stage already has me bent on eating more unhealthy foods and stopping any form of exercise to minimize the chance might actually see this come to pass in my lifetime.

    …donut anyone?

  41. Kali September 18, 2009 at 4:26 am #

    First, I have to say, this is totally nuts! Second, it may not be the teachers fault. It could be the principal’s or the boards policy. I can name a million times the borad or principal has a stupid policy that the teachers have to follow but didn’t want to. It may be the teachers idea, but then again, she may think it is stupid and completly agree that this policy is useless.

  42. deanne September 18, 2009 at 5:26 am #

    It seems to me like people have zero ability to assess risks in a logical fashion these days and internet issues are one of the worst areas. For example, since becoming a mom, I’ve become aware of the huge numbers of “mom blogs” out there. It seems like half the moms in my church have blogs filled with photos, stories about their kids and all the details of their lives out there for the world to see.
    Now, we all know that the risks of a molester picking a kid at random are minute, but if in the slight chance an acquaintance set their sights on your child, he’s have all the details needed to win your child’s trust right there. And then there’s the much more mundane, but likely risk of identity theft or even burglary. Don’t they realize how dumb it is to let complete strangers on the web know your birthdates, where you live, what the inside of your house looks like, where you work, that you’re going to your cousin’s wedding in Saskatoon next weekend, etc, etc, etc. ???
    YET, these are the same moms that freak out at the idea of letting their kids walk down the street to school, or even play outside by themselves. Have people lost all ability to use their common sense and assess risks?
    Just because everyone does it does not make it safe; just because no one seems to be doing it does NOT make it unsafe!

  43. Kari September 18, 2009 at 5:50 am #

    I just don’t see that this is worth getting upset over. Big deal. They can see him, he can’t see them. It’s still better than a phone call. There are so many things that are happening to kids that are so much bigger and more important than not being seen by a children’s author.

  44. Curvy September 18, 2009 at 6:07 am #

    I have issues with a nutty ex but I would still not be all freaked out about my childs picture on the internet. Maybe if I was in hiding from him (I am not at this point) because he was making my life hell again I would be a little more wary so in that regard, I can understand having concerns about posting pictures.

    To distrust a children’s author who is obviously more than trustworthy given his profession and the way that he is dealing with the children on a person to person basis is a little over the top. This is his JOB. Sure, bad things can happen with the people that you think that you can trust the most but this woman really needs to calm down… or the parents/school that are the driving force behind her request do.

  45. ebohlman September 18, 2009 at 6:19 am #

    Robin: the reason employers ask for no photos is to cover their asses against race-discrimination complaints. Of course, employers have actually been caught checking zip codes on resumes against census databases that include racial composition and round-filing any from zips that aren’t lily-white.

    A few years ago I read about one community that was holding a debate about whether the local paper should include names of youth athletes on photos of youth athletic events, because of “pedophiles.” Conspicuously absent was any mention of what pedophiles might do with this information (the paper had been including names for the last several decades). A fair percentage of the population does, however, believe that pedophiles have supernatural powers. There are actually therapists, for example, who treat people for the effects of child molestation suffered in previous lives (as well as that committed by extraterrestrials). Back in the 1990s, research found that the reason a Washington state crime-victims compensation fund was running out of money was that they were paying out far more for therapy of “victims” of Satanic multi-offender multi-victim molestation (a crime which the FBI has been unable to find a single case of) than for any other cause, and that the payees invariably got worse the longer the therapy went on (more divorces, fewer employed, more suicide attempts and hospitalizations, etc.). As a result of the research, the state stopped paying for such claims, earning one of the researchers (memory expert Elizabeth Loftus) the nickname of “the pedophile’s best friend.” Considerations like this are actually a major obstacle to getting mental-health parity in insurance coverage.

  46. Q September 18, 2009 at 6:24 am #

    @Kari — Well, it’s pretty rude to the author you’ve invited, to imply that they’re not trustworthy and might do something to harm the students. Why invite them to speak at all, if you have such a low opinion of them? Doesn’t teach the kids very good manners.

    It’s also a strange dynamic for a conversation–the author will get no visuals to tell him how the audience is attending or responding? But they’ll see him–why? Is his face that interesting? If the teacher really only wants an audio interaction, a speakerphone would be sufficient. Surely there are no fears that the author will secretly record the kids’ voices and put the mp3s up for sale on iTunes?

  47. Kelly September 18, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    Lenore, you are a hundred percent correct. I come close to despairing too when I hear this sort of thought process – and how relatively common it is.

    I left a (much-beloved) internet group over an argument along these lines. The new moderator wouldn’t let me post a picture of my kids because of a “legitimate safety concern” like the one mentioned here.

    I disagree with Kari who said this is no “Big Deal”. This one example, sure. But it’s worth challenging, and it’s worth bringing up for me, because I believe there are *so many examples* of this sort of paranoia / lack of logic / emotionalism about ZOMG THE KIDZ SAFETIES!!! in our country that it affects my life, my kids’ lives, and our general well-being in this country.

    I had to giggle at Q’s point, too – “Hey, can you come talk to the kids about your book? P.S. I’m just going to assume you’re some creepy pervert, hope that’s OK.”

  48. CLT September 18, 2009 at 6:58 am #

    Don’t despair, Lenore. It just means you have a wide readership. How would you change people’s minds if you weren’t read by people who didn’t agree with you (yet)?

  49. MFA Grad Student September 18, 2009 at 7:19 am #

    @ Marie Rush – that’s awful! I hope you find a better institution to teach at.

    @ Sam Caldwell – seconded. I’ll see your donuts and raise you a foie gras burger topped with extra bacon, cheese and a side of duckfat fries. If you’re gonna go, might as well go happy.

  50. sara September 18, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    In response to this outrageous comment, I have put back pictures of my kids on my blog. I inadvertently deleted the few that were there from my photobucket account, but didn’t bother fixing it because I figured the one reader of my blog sees those kids every day when he comes home from work. But, now they’re back up for all of the internet paedophile to get their jollies.

    Although I think the comment was posted by a troll, it made me wonder something. Why is it that images of children are only a concern when they’re on the internet? Why are people not protecting the child actors who possibly enter paedophiles’ houses one night a week (5 nights in syndication).

  51. Alida September 18, 2009 at 7:22 am #

    I love CLT’s comment. What a wonderful way to look at it Lenore. Not exactly on subject but speaking of kid pics on the internet two things happened to me recently. I post a blog titled Double the Fun with pics of my kids that were sooo adorable. Then I realized I was getting like 100 hits a day (I usually get three) from Kuala Lumpur and Signapore and such. Hm? I thought of you as I deleted the pictures. It just didn’t feel right.

    On Monday I went to a field trip where I ran into this girl who’s picture I always see on her mom’s blog. I don’t know them any more than I know you. Silly me, I said HI! to this little girl all excited and she looked at me like I was a weirdo. So I looked around and found her mom. I introduced myself and explained how I had recognized them. She was very nice, but the whole thing was funny.

    The internet is just making everyone a celebrity. The most I fear we have to worry about is having our kids featured on The Fug Girls site for a fashion mishap:)

  52. Nicola September 18, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    “sonya, on September 17th, 2009 at 9:47 pm Said:

    I think we’re giving the teacher a hard time unnecessarily. She’s just following the rules – probably not all the kids’ parents have signed the form allowing their image to be put on the internet. And legally, sending video by skype might be viewed as “image on the internet”. And as I said in my other post, what she’s asking for (1-way video) can easily be done with skype.”

    If we don’t start giving people who enforce the rules a hard time, what impetus do they have to try to change the rules with those who make them?

    If the teacher hears 90% of the parents telling her that it’s an idiotic rule – she will go to the principal and tell him/her that 90% of the parents think it’s stupid. Perhaps then the principal will take this 90% to the next school board meeting – and maybe, just maybe, a letter will be sent to the parents to vote on whether to do away with such absurdities.

    As it is right now, so many people are so worried about hurting other people’s feelings that we don’t see that sometimes it’s necessary to make a change! We have laws in place now for many things simply because those of us with common sense didn’t say, “hey… that sounds dumb.” Yet all the ones WITHOUT common sense said, “We need a law for that!” And they spoke much louder than our silence.

    In a perfect world, those 90% of parents would go to the principal AND teacher and maybe even the board meeting… but the truth is, those 90% are scared shitless because of the news, and because of what other people will think of them if they aren’t spouting “all things safe” for their little Timmy.

    I literally had a parent let her child out on her own for the first time just because she saw my children playing. Her daughter came to ask if she could play with my children and her mom followed her over (the whole three doors away). This woman was blown away, eyes wide open, when I told her I let my kids out for hours and don’t sit and watch them. That I’d lived in the same neighborhood for 7 years and it was one of the safest places you could ask for with neighbors that care. What happened is that my kids and hers were going from her house to my house, then romping around outside… all without parental eyes prying over them every step of the way.

    It doesn’t happen unless we’re unafraid to speak our minds (politely, mind you) and educate others. It will not happen by worrying about hurting feelings, nor worrying about what other people might think about you.

    Sorry, I’m ranting… but it just kills me to see how this type of mindset has let those with no sense whatsoever run rampant while everyone capable of seeing what is going on remain in silence. GAH!

  53. Jen September 18, 2009 at 8:57 am #

    This has been weighing on my mind all evening so I had to come back and write something. I teach middle school, and I am a huge believer in free range parenting.

    But the situation you’re describing here is extremely unfair to the teacher. I would have done exactly as she did, because my school does not allow visitors into the classroom until they have passed a CORI check, and I cannot release a student’s image (that includes video, still image, or even name) until the parents have signed a release form. I wish it wasn’t true, but it’s the rules I have to follow if I want to keep my job.

    Rant about how ridiculous the situation is and blame the school boards or administrators for passing such drastic policy- but don’t blame the teacher who’s trying to work around draconian policy to still provide learning opportunities for the students.

  54. Nicola September 18, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    @Jen: (Not saying your comment was aimed solely at me, but) I’m definitely not blaming the teacher. I’m blaming the mentality of “let’s all be nice and not say anything because it might hurt someone’s feelings.”

    If anything, what is to blame is the fact that people don’t speak up to stop rules like this and the only ones talking and getting stuff like this passed are the ones that are afraid of their own shadows.

    My thought is that we need to speak up and talk to not only the teacher, but the principal, and the school boards to get stuff like this OUT of the school.

    If we keep on the nicey-nice, we’re going to keep getting laws like this enacted by the people who open their mouths and spout the ridiculous while we all say nothing (or just write about how mad it makes us on a board that only we seem to read).

  55. Julie September 18, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    YAY! Finally some sanity!

    So, a children’s author, who makes his/her living selling to kids, is going to turn around and jeopardize his/her WHOLE CAREER? Right… why is it the the stupid people who get the benefit of the doubt?

    How did we get so paranoid about our kids pictures anyway? Like they’re all so amazingly cute that no one can resist?

  56. Alanna September 18, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    I think that this teacher may well be bowing under pressure from or following the instructions given by some misguided school administrator.

  57. Kenny Felder September 18, 2009 at 10:18 am #

    It’s depressing to me to see how many of the comments about about the technological details of Skype. Not the point, folks.

    Imagine that it is a hundred years ago. Your send your kid–let’s say, your 9-year-old boy–to walk to the market, because hey, it’s only half a mile or so away. So he goes to the market, stops to play with some other kids, buys the groceries. Along the way, a drug store owner asks him to help load some bags into his store, and he helps, and the shopowner gives him an ice cream cone as thanks, so your son arrives home with ice cream on his face.

    Now, choose one of the following.

    1. That would never have happened.

    2. Maybe it would have happened then, but that’s just because people didn’t know better; the world would have been better if parents hadn’t let their children do such dangerous things.

    3. Maybe it would have happened then, but today there are far more dangers, so we’d like to go back to that world, but we can’t.

    Do any of these options sound right to you? They don’t to me. My conclusion is, it could have happened then, and the only reason it can’t happen now is rampant paranoia, and it is tragic that we are raising our children in such a suspicious, paranoid world, and we should just stop it.

    My father’s Web site has pictures of all 7 of his grandchildren, which includes my 4 children. He gives their names and dates of birth. Why? Because he’s a proud grandpa, that’s why.

    Just stop it.

  58. NSM September 18, 2009 at 10:27 am #

    Is it only a matter of time until the burkha is popular in America?

  59. Uly September 18, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    Hey, anybody want to fight the good fight here? They’re all talking and scaring themselves silly about how baaaaaad folks wait to snatch kids as they walk aLOOOOOONE.

    I refuse to get involved, but if anybody else wants to….

  60. wackyvorlon September 18, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    That’s one thing I hate these days, if you are a man, you are automatically assumed to be a sex offender. Even if you see a woman who seems interesting and you would like to get to know her, you don’t dare ask if she’d like to get a coffee – you are instantly seen as a stalker or a rapist. It’s offensive.

  61. Ben September 18, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    Yes, the author would be able to see the kids through a regular Skype video call, but parents don’t need to give consent for that. As for putting it on the net. There are plenty of children’s authors who put pictures of book talks online without any problem. As with any picture, you need permission from whoever is in it, but that is something the author should only worry about if he intends to do so. Maybe the teacher is not tech savvy. Let’s give her some help.

  62. Ben September 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

    Since Lenore likes statistics, I’ve tried to dig up stories about children’s writers who turned out to be sex offenders for the past 30 years. I can think of exactly one (and I’m not even sure if he was convicted after the accusation was made).

    So, the chance of meeting an evil author are even lower than being struck by lightening. I’ll take my chances. You can’t live in fear…

  63. Alison Fairfield September 18, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Regarding this question of irrational fear and paranoia of which Lenore is despairing…so I’m doing breakfast dishes and listening to a commentary on The Brothers Karamazov when the point being discussed seems apropos…

    Dostoesvsky, it seems, explored how *uncertainty* that arises out of a loss of connectedness results in a *new moral certainty* that reason alone is inadequate to combat.

    Well, it sort of reminded me of how perfectionist (or to borrow someone’s adjective) blameless parenting & worst case scenario thinking are an index of our fragmented relationships today.

    And it’s so perversely self-reinforcing. I won’t trust you and that makes the world even less trustworthy. So the only bulwark I have is this *moral certainty* about the right way to *protect* my kids.

    Am I over-thinking this?

    @ Uly, a guy named Paul took up the challenge.

  64. Kelly September 18, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    @Alison Fairfield – wow, you might be onto something! That is an interesting thought.

    I don’t know if you find this relevant or not to your point, but what you’ve written struck me as interesting. I am around my kids an awful lot (they are unschooled, home with me). I feel pretty sure of their capabilities on anything – and I give them lots of freedom to go out in the world (as well as expectations to do so – my 7 year old daughter picks up our mail and is starting to get our groceries, the 5 year old walks the dog). I notice my friends who see less of their kids and have the typically “busy” American lives (9 hours of school, running to sports, running home, quick dinner, bedtime, get up early, rinse and repeat) seem to trust their kids less. I hear a lot of, “Oh, my kids could never handle that”. They seem sure their kids couldn’t handle it, and I honestly don’t know if it’s true or not.

    I know my 7 and 5 year old are just normal kids. They’re not more remarkable than my friends’ kids. But I suppose if you have a disconnect in family life – whether from lack of time or lack of presence when you have time with them – maybe you don’t KNOW your kids? And then heck yeah, over-parenting and helicoptering is probably pretty tempting – it can feel “right”, moral, and it can make you feel like you’re “doing something”!

    Just a thought… like I said, I know my own family scene pretty good, I am only observational when it comes to my friends’, even my close ones.

  65. Lisa September 18, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

    Lenore… I let my 6 and a half year old walk home from the library, unnattended.

    He asked and I said yes (while worrying, of course), but he made it home (one block, through a playground) and felt like a rockstar all afternoon.

    Thanks for helping me give him the space he needs to be confident and happy..


  66. surflife September 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    I am so with you – at the rate kids in the western world are going thye will be so afraid to leave their houses that it will come to a grinding halt!! I will teach my kids to be free range always as at least there will be someone to switch the lights off when the west collapses!

  67. Veronica Hayes September 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm #

    “..That someone will see this particular photo, obsessively focus on the kid in the third row and move heaven and earth to come find this child and stalk, rape or kill him/her? And that we must keep Third Row Kid safe at all costs?…”

    Lenore, seriously…I think I LOVE YOU!!!!

    Rock on, & Shana Tova Umetukah

    ~Veronica Hayes

  68. Christy B. September 18, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    I’m with you. I’ve never understood people’s paranoia about having pictures on the internet. I mean unless they are naked or engaged in illegal activity what exactly do you fear??

    Remember the Good Ol Days when your picture was in the newspaper (even accidently caught in the background) and your mother bought a lot of papers then cut out your photo and mailed it to relatives?? This happened to me AND I LIVED TO TELL THE TALE!

  69. Kali September 18, 2009 at 6:57 pm #

    I read this quote, and thought of FRK. “In an insane world the sane appear insane.’”

    So true.

  70. Peter Brülls September 18, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    @surflife I don’t want to sound too wide-guyish, but it’s not yet a problem of the Western world, but mostly of the Anglo world. Though there are plenty of politicians and special interest group who use the same fear mongering to peddle their snake oil solutions.

  71. HappyNat September 18, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    In response to the person who took down pictures when they saw hit coming from Signapore and far away places. I’ve noticed my kiddos blog meter get hits from all over and certain posts spike oddly high percentages from different countries. Ya know what? I don’t care. Who knows why there is a spike, it could be a class project, or an e-mail passed around by coworkers, or an weird IP glitch.

    If by chance there are the dreaded perverts “enjoying” pictures of my kids then so what? They are only pictures. If cute pictures of kids are what they want the can find those anywhere. I’m not going to stop sharing photos/stories with family and friends around the world because some evil person might be doing something evil.

  72. Danielle September 18, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    Wow! How ridiculous and offensive to the author! I would like to point out that the teacher could have just not enabled the video feed on Skype. The class could have seen and heard the author and he would have only heard them. I mention this only as an FYI, not because I agree with the teacher!

  73. peaceful guide September 18, 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    I don’t blame the teacher for saying that – NOT because I am paranoid about the issue of a child’s picture ending up on the internet, but because I am familiar with the legalities that schools are faced with. Teachers are just following the policies that have been established by the district or owners of the school (both public and private schools face these issues), in response to the neurosis of the parents. In the school where I work, we have at least two parents who refuse to allow us to photograph their children at all. So now, when a parent comes to celebrate a birthday, we have to tell them that they can take pictures of their child, but not anybody else’s. It’s unbelievably pathetic, but what can a teacher do against a whole district and/or her bosses?

  74. Kimberly September 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    I’ve never understood this FEAR THE INTERNET thing. Some of my friends won’t post their children’s names on their blogs. First names. They post photos, but not first names. Others won’t let professional photographers use their photos as samples. Why? What’s going to happen on the internet that can’t happen in real life?

    Someone sees your kid and becomes obsessed? what about the people at the grocery store? the zoo? That’s just as (un)likely.

    Someone hears your child’s name and decides to chase him? Again, I tell people Jack’s name ninetyjillion times a day.

    More people see the child on the internet? Ok, sure. Because someone in China or California or Germany is going to come over here to Florida and chase down little Sue or Sammy? Right.

    Clearly, I’m a terrible parent. I have just informed you all that I have a child named Jack who lives in FL. Now what?

    I just don’t get this obsession.

  75. Kimberly September 18, 2009 at 9:30 pm #

    Oh! I do remember now that someone told me they don’t like pics on the internet due to a fear that someone will take the head of their child and photoshop it onto the body of an unclothed child and…something bad will happen.

    I just don’t get it. At all.

  76. Shannon September 19, 2009 at 12:54 am #

    Parents who complain about such a thing should simply be laughed at by teachers and school administrators. Total, no holds barred ridicule. We’ve tried reason. We’ve tried sympathy. Now it’s just time to let them know the exact size and nature of their silliness, and what everyone else thinks about their total self-absorption.

  77. wackyvorlon September 19, 2009 at 2:53 am #

    I’m reminded of a quote from Thomas Jefferson:

    “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.”

    I think this situation is appropriate.

  78. NJMom September 19, 2009 at 3:32 am #

    Folks are probably done with this topic by now but….

    While I of course agree with Lenore and love her impassioned response and wish I could write like that, I am a former public school teacher. And the teacher in question (and her supporter) are simply victims of the the paranoia of the public school “system” which is made up of teachers, administrators, and parents in an ever escalating, crazy, triad of sillyness (Homework for kindergarteners anyone?) The teacher really could recieve flack for exposing her students’ faces to the internet. This paranoia comes from lack of experience with this particular media. For example, rarely do parents worry about their children being in the newspaper. And I admit that before I started to use the internet for “whatever”, I did not sign the school release letting my children’s names or faces be on the internet. Very, very silly I see now, but I didn’t then. And public schools can just be so slow to catch on; and the internet is still very new to these “systems” and thus the internet is SCARY.

    So, Lenore, Berlin and asdf are ALL justified in their feelings as they each have a very different point of view.

  79. Shannon September 19, 2009 at 4:03 am #

    @wackyvorlon: Amen, and thanks for the quotation. I think it will be useful in a variety of different situations.

  80. ebohlman September 19, 2009 at 4:59 am #

    In preparation for my mother coming home from a nursing home, I need to have some rather heavy ancient furniture removed from my house. Our village government maintains a list of teenagers/young twentysomethings willing to do that kind of work. I called the receptionist, gave her my fax number, and she faxed me the list, no questions asked. But first I asked her if the list were available somewhere on the village’s website. She said, “no, we can’t do that, because they’re children.”

    I believe the applicable phrase here is “security theater.”

  81. Rich Wilson September 19, 2009 at 5:30 am #

    @ebohlman or “security stupidity”. I’m beginning to think there’s a difference.

    I just signed my son up for a free intro tumbling lesson, and had to register on a website to do so. My password was required to be ‘at least six characters, and include at least one upper case letter, number or symbol’. So I made it all upper case, and it worked.

  82. Michele September 19, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    Maybe the classroom of children could don the masks and veils that Michael Jackson subjected his children to….that would be very, very safe.


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