A few weeks ago when Pigtail and I were in Oklahoma, my mom and sister and I took the kids to the local splash pad, which is really more like a very, very small water park. It was my first time there, and I couldn't believe how they had turned this normal community pool into such a fun spot.
I shot a few pictures of Pigtail playing in the water, and then of my niece and nephew playing on the toys. I aimed my camera only at my relatives, though other kids might been caught in the background, especially if the kids were more than just a few feet away.
We stuck to the little kids section of the pool, but a larger slide and a miniature lazy river attracted the pre-teen set. I walked over to check out the deeper side of the pool, camera in hand but at my side. A teenage employee approached me and, apologizing profusely, told me the water park had a no pictures policy. She explained, embarrassed, that parents had complained about pictures taken at the pool, so this was the new rule.
I already had several cute shots of my own child, and had no need to argue with her. I smiled politely, told her I understood, and stashed the camera with the rest of our bags and towels.
But I'm not sure I do understand. I can't help but wonder at the theory behind the rule. She insinuated that they were to protect the kids from perverts. I know that happens, but it's hard for me to believe that it happens that much. Even so, there aren't rules that would keep a pervy perv from paying $4 to waltz right in and park himself on a pool chair.
The pool employee also mentioned Facebook. So someone is worried about pictures of themselves or their child popping up on the site in a swimsuit. I understand. I have been tagged in unflattering or embarrassing pictures myself. I promptly un-tag. And if it kept happening, I would change my settings so that others couldn't tag me period.
My mom thinks it's less about internet pervs and more about internet bullying. Having a picture of someone in a private family moment where they're not exactly dressed could be embarrassing, and potentially could scare someone from coming to the pool at all if they thought cameras would abound. In order to keep the place a fun and comfortable spot, they want customers to come with no fear that their cellulite or wardrobe malfunction would end up in a co-workers inbox.
In that case, does it mean that such rules should only be applied to areas where we're in our swimsuits? So I shouldn't be worried about such rules popping up at the park, the fair, Six Flags, a school function?
We live in a digital age. This makes images - both good and bad - instantly accessible. It can also make for a general lack of privacy, even if it's unwanted. I totally get these fears. But why do your internet fears trump my rights to document my kid? Should fears ever trump rights?
Justified or not, they do sometimes.
We'd been there at least fifteen minutes before I asked to stop taking pictures. I'm not sure if she approached me only as I walked away from my family with the camera, or if she would have said something anyway. It does make me wonder. Maybe they're doing a better job at watching the customers than I would have given them credit for.
My conclusion: though it's a community pool, they do charge a fee giving them the right to instate rules and paying customers a presumed right to, in this case, privacy. It's not like we were at the lake. Also, the fact that a pool equals skimpily clad children and adults makes such a request reasonable.
Outside of those circumstances, I worry about the great fear of the digital image. The theory that everyone is malicious except you. I don't believe this. I think we're all shifting the best we can. Embracing technology that makes the world a smaller place, but scared to death that suddenly the world is right at our fingertips.
What do you think? Have you asked or been asked by someone to put down the camera? I'd love to hear your stories or thoughts on this subject.
**pictures of Pigtail and Pigtail & her aunt were taken before I was asked to stop.