Swimmers at Gympie’s aquatic centre will now have their phones checked for photos before leaving. (Pic: supplied)
Swimmers at Gympie’s aquatic centre will now have their phones checked for photos before leaving. (Pic: supplied)

Pool’s photo policy shows the dark side of parenting

SOME will no doubt call me naive, but if you assume every person with a mobile phone at a swimming pool is a sex offender then we have a problem.

Here is something no one will tell you about being a parent.

There is nothing quite like having a child for inducing a note of fear into the life of a human being.

It's not the visceral fear of a person whose life is in immediate danger, I'll give you that.

Instead, it's a slow-burning terror, born out of the desire to protect and cherish the small person you have brought into the world. It's a constant suspicion, keeping you alert to the people and things around your child that may do them harm.

This though, as with so many things about having a child in your life, a double edged sword.

While it serves to help keep our kids as safe as can be, some of us let the fear burn too brightly.

Take the photography policy of the Gympie Aquatic Recreation Centre in Queensland.

According to the Gympie Times, the management of the pool have a policy of asking people who wish to take photos to hand over their devices at the end of their swimming session to make sure no inappropriate photos of children have been taken.

Adult patrons will have their phones checked before being allowed to leave the pool. (Pic: iStock)
Adult patrons will have their phones checked before being allowed to leave the pool. (Pic: iStock)

"We take community safety and privacy seriously and as such have a process in place to manage appropriate photography within the centre," a spokesman for the pool said.

Now, there's plenty to be said for risk management. After all, prevention is better than cure, the old adage goes. But this policy is problematic on a number of levels.

It's completely toothless. It does nothing to prevent inappropriate photos of children being taken. It just prevents photos that have been taken physically making their way out of the gates of the pool. There's nothing about it that would stop someone from taking an inappropriate photo and uploading it to another device, platform or server and then simply deleting it before leaving the premises. In order to prevent inappropriate photos being taken, surely a more effective policy would be to ban all photography on site - a policy many pools around the country already have in place. (It should be noted, the Gympie Aquatic Recreation Centre already has a complete ban on photography in the change rooms, as is appropriate.)

The Gympie Times also reported that local parents are fired up over the policy, and that President of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties Terry O'Gorman found the policy "grossly excessive".

But perhaps more worrying, this policy assumes the worst in people. It allows the fear to burn far too brightly.

The move is being introduced in a bid to keep kids safe while at the pool. (Pic: supplied)
The move is being introduced in a bid to keep kids safe while at the pool. (Pic: supplied)

"It's an infringement on the privacy of the vast majority of people doing the right thing," O'Gorman said, and he is right. The vast majority of people are doing the right thing, but checking the cameras of people taking photos at the gates assumes that most people have a nefarious objective in mind.

Some will no doubt call me naive, but if the natural impulse to protect a child from danger grows to the extent that you assume every person with a mobile phone at a swimming pool is a sex offender then we have a problem.

Ascribing ill-motives to strangers on the street will tear communities apart. It shows a complete lack of faith in our neighbours, in humanity.

The world is not out to get you. In fact, short of glancing at your child and admiring their water bombing skills or taking a moment of joy in their delighted giggles, most people are frankly not all that interested in you and your kids - wrapped up as they are in their own worlds.

Instead of approaching the world from a place of fear, we should place our trust in one another.

When we meet someone new, rather than suspicion, we should expect the best from them.

We should take on an outlook of generosity of spirit, give people the benefit of the doubt and let eager mums and dads take the most Australian of photos - a kid in her togs splashing about in the kiddie pool on a hot summer's day.

Alys Gagnon is a writer at Kidspot.

News Corp Australia


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