I thought it would be a good idea to write a quick blog post about something that happened today, just to make it absolutely clear to readers where I stand on the issue of consent.
I write a lot about my son, who has Down’s syndrome. I use his name and his image. I am, I think, quite careful about both the stories I tell, remembering always to bear in mind his dignity and the images I use; as he grows up and is more and more aware of my life as a writer and his role in it, I make sure to ask him if it is OK, or use an old or connected image.
I occasionally write about my younger children. I never mention their names, and I do not use their images in order to protect their anonymity.
Using the image and stories of a disabled young person are issues that are hedged about with issues of consent; it is important to both protect their dignity and to ensure that they are safe. There are many stories I do not tell and images I do not share in order to do this.
Today, an influential and widely read teacher-blogger linked to my blog and quoted me extensively, in order to make a point in an argument he was having with some other commentators about the use of synthetic phonics in the teaching of reading. I’m not going to link to it here.
This is OK. If he wants to characterise me in an unattractive/negative light, frankly, I think that says more about him than it does about me.
Unfortunately, what he also did was to mention my son, by name, in his blog. He did not ask my permission, or my son’s, to do this. This is not OK.
My son, by virtue of being a disabled young person is automatically a vulnerable young person. As teachers, we have been on enough safeguarding courses to know that we do not put vulnerable people in harm’s way. We don’t do it in our real lives, and we don’t do it in our virtual lives.
If you, as a reader of my blog, want to quote me, even out of context and even if you are attempting to paint me in a negative light, I might not like it but I am an adult and I can stick up for myself.
You do not have my permission to publish material about my son that identifies him, or use his image without his or my consent.
My material has been published on other websites, in print and in mainstream media. My son’s image and stories have been used in these contexts with our consent. If you wish to use them, you may ask, but you may not automatically get our consent.
Asking for consent is important, and is not negotiable. If you make the mistake and overstep the mark, I expect you to take the material down and issue an apology.
I have not checked, but I believe the influential teacher blogger when he tells me
that he has taken down material that identifies my son. He is a teacher, and he knows that keeping young people safe is important and part of our duties as teachers. I have not had an apology.
This is different to linking to my blog using pingback, which is entirely acceptable and to be expected. It is the writing about my son, and the use of his name, which, linked to mine, could identify him and put him in danger, without my or his consent, that I object to.
Thanks for reading.