Winnipeg schools ban posting of school videos, photos
Published Monday, June 27, 2011 8:40AM EDT
WINNIPEG - A little more than a year after it was embarrassed by an online video of two young teachers lap dancing at a pep rally, the Winnipeg School Division is trying to toughen restrictions on posting photos or videos from school events on the Internet.
Officials say the change was in the works well before the lap-dance incident and is an attempt to make more people aware of a policy that has existed for almost a decade.
The two teachers lost their jobs over their gyrations, which were captured by a student on cellphone video and then posted to the web, where it quickly went viral. It was featured on radio's Howard Stern Show and on television network CNN and can still be found circulating on YouTube.
Internet experts question whether the school division's policy is doomed to fail when one out of every two Canadians is on Facebook and posting or sharing photos and video has become commonplace.
School trustee Kristine Barr was the chairwoman of the committee which revised the policy to add a requirement that principals do more to ensure people know about the rules. She said it's a matter of Internet safety that many parents support.
"There are predators out there," she said.
"We've had policies on Internet safety for years and years ... We're just asking that it been seen as a social responsibility."
The only real change to the rules this time is that principals or their designates are being asked to inform anyone attending school events of the restrictions and ask for their co-operation, she said. That extends to events off school property and covers students, parents or anyone else attending.
"We recognize that enforcement would be very difficult and we have no policy in that area ... We're not sending out Internet police."
Prof. Avner Levin at Ryerson University in Toronto says it's not good to put in place policies that cannot be enforced and which don't recognize how people now use social media.
"I understand the need to protect young children," he said.
But Levin argues it makes more sense to try to ensure that people use the Internet and social media responsibly rather than prevent them from posting images entirely.
"Focus on abuse," said the academic, who has researched the way young people in particular social network.
He suggested there is a need for policies to ensure people aren't targeted or cyber-bullied in social media. Posting a photograph is fine; labelling it "loser" is not.
Levin also believes blanket policies such as the one in Winnipeg may, in many cases, be an attempt to defray legal liability if something goes wrong. But it's not reflective of the way young people in particular consider the web to share information.
His own research found a digital divide between the view of young people about online privacy and the view of older managers and employers.
Levin and his team interviewed more than 2,000 undergraduate students and found young people perceived their interactions on social media sites to be private, an attitude many of those in authority he interviewed did not share.
Barr, a lawyer, rejects the idea anything posted to the Internet could ever be considered private.
"I could go onto Facebook, post a picture of my child, share it with only a select group of friends, and only 15 people have access to it. But if one of those people tags themselves in the photograph, it becomes visible to their friends as well and you lose control of the image."