POSI: Guidelines on the use of children's images

04 September 2020

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The Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood sent all the national directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies last May 19, on the occasion of the anniversary of the foundation of the Society, guidelines on the use of images of minors in the various communication tools and materials used by the Pontifical Mission Societies at a national and international level, in order to underline the charism of the PMS within the Church and in the world.

"We are all convinced that children are worthy of respect, whatever their physical condition, cultural, social or religious origin is. And with the term respect we mean the broadest and most extensive meaning. This right can also be violated with an inappropriate use of the images that portray the person and that belong to his/her private sphere, and in the context of children and young people we mean the family and the different communities of belonging and experience", explains in an article published on Osservatore Romano Sr. Roberta Tremarelli AMSS, General Secretary of the Pontifical  Society of Holy Childhood. The guidelines are expressed in twelve points: any interaction and activity involving minors is always inspired by the principles of dignity, respect, personal decorum and responsibility; our communication must always be positive; images that promote and attract must be used because they communicate beauty, protection, development, faith, witness, joy, preferring photos of children in groups; the child and young person are the subject and not the object of the image, the ability to be protagonists of their own destiny and not passive beneficiaries of the action is to be highlighted; photos and videos must be appropriate or relevant to the activity in which the child is engaged, for missionary childhood or in school or in other situations in his/her life; it is important not to feed discrimination or dependence of one country on another; use discretion, prudence and common sense to inform, avoiding hitting the recipient with crude images of those who at that moment cannot defend their dignity; take and use decent photographs and images of children and must not be presented as victims, vulnerable or submissive, dirty and hungry, in tears or naked; do not refer to stereotypes and sensational materials to promote one’s activities, photographing extreme situations and pain, exploiting the presence of minors to induce pity and lead to an increase in fundraising; make sure that the images are an honest representation of the situation and facts; do not involve children and young people in advertising that could harm the harmonious development of their personality and that of children who look at the image; pay particular attention and sensitivity in the dissemination of images of sick, injured, disadvantaged or minors in difficulty in order to avoid that, in the name of a pitying feeling, sensationalism is reached that ends up becoming exploitation of the person.

It is therefore a question of avoiding the following actions: acting in such a way as to shame, compromise or degrade children by causing forms of emotional abuse; putting the child in danger or expose him/her to possible humiliation; discriminating against children when choosing who to take a picture of; labeling children or describing them in a way that could provoke sentimentality or even psychological, physical, verbal or sexual abuse towards them; publishing a story that could endanger a child, his/her family and those around him/her; nourishing the sense of welfare.

Sister Tremarelli explains in the article: "There are three starting elements: the concept of the dignity of the person, of every person, created in the image and likeness of God, an image that must be preserved and never obscured, because the Church has dignity of the person at heart (Evangelii gaudium, 213); the concept of image and social communication, understood as resources for the promotion of the person; the concept of a minor. The child and the young person are the subject and not the object of the image. This must promote and attract because it communicates beauty, protection, development, faith, witness, joy, hope".