Monday 11 June 2012 00:00
The tangled web: Use caution when posting pictures of your children
"Certainly, those who work at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) believe parents should be wary about what they post. A spokesman says: “There’s a lot of people out there with a sexual interest in children and parents might not always think about that when they are using the internet to share images with friends of family.
“From our work, we know there are forums, chat-rooms or other environments where offenders or those with a sexual interest in children will go to share images or likes; to normalise their behaviour. In the old days, they would have had to hang around the school playgrounds to watch children; now they can just access images on the internet.”
Shaun Kelly, head of safeguarding at Action for Children, spends a lot of his time warning teenagers to think before they post any compromising images of themselves on the internet. But he says the same advice applies to parents uploading innocent family clips. “When you upload images to a public site, you have to be aware of who the audience might be – it’s an open forum, it could be anybody,” he says.
“Also parents should be aware that once they’ve uploaded them, the images may always be out there. Even if you take them off YouTube, someone could already have downloaded them onto a hard disk somewhere and they might resurface.”
Dr Ethel Quayle, a clinical psychologist based at Edinburgh University, who has conducted research on internet-based sex offending, agrees there are issues around digital images and our capacity to control their use: “All images of children can potentially act as sexual stimuli for people who are sexually interested in children.
“However, we do need to have a balanced perspective about this, otherwise our anxieties about inappropriate use inhibit our ability to use digital photographs at all.”
The problem for law enforcement agencies is that, since the clips are not in themselves indecent and they’ve been placed on a public forum by their owners, there’s nothing much they can do about it.
When Kelli Clark took her discovery to the FBI she was told that since the user had merely listed other people’s videos, he had not acted illegally. “You can’t use the term ‘child porn’ with these images – a clip with a child in a nappy dancing around is not inappropriate, but, of course, it could be taken in the wrong context, ” the CEOP spokesman says. “It’s not illegal, but the question is – why would anyone want to create a private channel full of these images? It would be worrying. The police would probably look into it to see if anything more could be done or to glean a bit of intelligence around who might be doing it."