Recently, my principal came over the intercom to explain to students that they were not allowed to live-broadcast their school experiences – either in or out of class. It seemed like an obvious statement, something that shouldn’t need to be articulated, and yet there had been two occasions (that the school had discovered) where a student had set up his or her phone to broadcast the scene without the knowledge of the people involved.

Now that we (almost) all have smartphones, it is incredibly easy to take a picture or video wherever we are – often without the subjects of the photo being aware that they are being photographed. It’s been the subject of recent news articles in the United States and Canada, and a concern for teachers, administrators – and, frequently, the students who are the unknowing subjects of the photos – for quite a while. There are teachers who refuse to have phones in their classrooms for this very reason.

Honestly, I really struggle with this. Not with the secret photography or videography, of course – that’s unacceptable on a number of different levels. However, does that mean that we ban cell phones in the classroom, or does it mean we need to teach students to be socially responsible? Are teachers expected to police cell phone use, or are students expected to honour the privacy of their teachers and peers?

When did we lose the understanding that your right to take photos and videos of your experiences does not negate my right to basic privacy?