Woman banned from taking photographs of her child at softplay centre!
No, this wasn't a tabloid headline or juicy piece of news; it was my family day out. Uniformed attendants raced over and asked me to stop photographing my child as she did some death defying stunts on a climbing frame. The entire situation left me staring open-mouthed in astonishment.
No photographs? When I asked why I couldn't grab some family memories, the answer was a stubborn, "It's the rules".
You honestly can't argue with that, can you? Well, you can, but you'd only end up faint with frustration while they said the same thing over and over again.
Surely this is taking things a bit too far? I know that there are concerns about unsavoury sorts taking photographs for unsettling purposes, but they aren't going to be the ones yelling, "Excellent jump, Timothy!", are they?
Not only that, but isn't such a ruling impossible to police? You'd have to remove every single cell phone in the building too.
Honestly, I believe that a line needs to be drawn somewhere, or else we're going to end up eyeballing each other in terror, mentally accusing innocent parents of being perverts because they want to snap photographs of their kids.
Ian Kearney, Director of Cheeky Monkey's, says: "I have always allowed my customers to take photos of their children having fun. We do operate a management discretion where, if we feel an individual is careless and looks to be photographing randomly, we may choose to intervene."
Ian also adds that he believes the rules to ban the taking of photos in all public settings are due to poor management or training. "Often they cannot rely on staff to manage a situation, so they introduce a rule to remove the issue."
On the other hand, Donna Isoulde, manager of The Flying Fortress, says that their no photograph policy came about as a result of parent complaints.
"We used to allow cameras," she explains, "but the sheer volume of complaints from customers resulted in us banning them altogether. We've had some heated moments about this issue before we instigated the ban."
Their policy was entirely driven by their customers and today they police it rigorously. "If we see someone using a mobile phone to take photos, then we will actively try and stop them from doing so," says Donna.
When I canvassed a wide group of parents, their reactions varied from outraged to nodding in agreement.
Sarah, mum to two under threes, says: "I completely agree with such bans and would support any legislation that extended it to parks or play areas. The thought that some weirdo could be photographing my children for later use makes my blood run cold."
Helen Rist, mum to two boys under five, has a completely different view: "It's a total over reaction to ban parents from taking photos of their own children in public places. The hysteria is bordering on unhealthy and fosters paranoia and fear of all strangers; teaching adults and children alike to presume the worst of other people."
Luschka van Onselen, author of Diary of a First Child says: "I think it's entirely ridiculous to prevent parents from taking photos of their children in public places. Where we are is where our memories are made, and that's what we want to remember. Surely part of an amazing holiday, day trip or visit is reminiscing over the photos?"
Lisa Jackson, author of Moaning Mummy agrees, "I love taking photographs of my children, but I can understand why some places disallow this. It's gone completely too far, but I'm not quite sure what the alternatives are."
Lisa raises an excellent point; while I feel that the ban is outrageous, and is impinging on my freedom, other people feel the reverse – so what is the middle ground? An all-out ban on photography in public places is a little too Orwellian and would mean some very boring photo albums, but is the alternative any better?
Sue Atkins, parenting expert and author of Raising Happy Children for Dummies, says, "I think it's all about balance, being sensible and using common sense while, of course, protecting children from exploitation or paedophiles.
"Alerting parents to the dangers is sensible, and having limits where people post them, such as their private Facebook page or family album, and being sensible in allowing families to take photos of their kids at the school play!"
Ultimately it's about being logical and practical in the application of photographic bans. Every second snapper is unlikely to be a weirdo with perversion on his (or her) mind. Most of the people taking photographs at a swimming pool or softplay area are proud parents, capturing memories for posterity.
Paranoia is rife in modern society and, if we're not careful, I'm afraid that it will soon completely dominate every aspect of our lives. I would rather have all sorts of people taking photographs at the venues I attend than lose out on capturing my daughter doing something amazing. I think that the risk is mostly hype and drama, not lurking behind the pillars at my local softplay area.
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