Section 9: Children and Young People as Contributors
Informed Consent for Children and Young People
When featuring children and young people in our output we must obtain their informed consent, wherever possible, and respect any refusal to take part (unless there is a public interest that outweighs their expectations of privacy).
In addition to the usual considerations for obtaining informed consent from the child/young person and, when necessary, any other person giving consent for their involvement, we must:
- ensure they understand the nature of the output
- ensure that any reasonably foreseeable consequences of the child's participation, such as the possibility of bullying, are made clear
- not give them any inducement to secure consent (although the payment of expenses is acceptable as long as they are reasonable and legitimate).
We must take care that the information we disclose about children and young people does not put them at any risk. How they are identified in our content requires careful consideration and will vary according to context. Advice is available from Editorial Policy. If it has been established that we should not disclose a child or young person’s location, particular care should be taken not to inadvertently do so by a ‘jigsaw effect’, i.e. revealing several pieces of information in words or images that can be pieced together to readily identify where the child may be found. (Note that, in some circumstances, avoiding the ‘jigsaw effect’ may require taking account of information already in the public domain.)
'Parental consent' means the informed consent of a parent, legal guardian, or other person aged 18 or over acting in loco parentis, such as a Head Teacher.
In addition to the informed consent of the child or young person themselves, we should normally seek 'parental consent' before interviewing anyone under the age of 16, or otherwise involving them in our output. An exception may be when recording vox pops with children on non-sensitive subjects, where it is not controversial for children to hold and express their views.
However, the younger and more vulnerable the child, and the more sensitive the subject matter, the more likely it is that 'parental consent' is essential. 'Parental consent' should normally be obtained if children are asked for views on matters likely to be beyond their capacity to answer properly.
In deciding whether a child can give consent, the stage of development and degree of understanding as well as their age should be taken into account. If a young person is 16 or 17 it may still be appropriate to seek 'parental consent' in some cases, depending on the circumstances of the young person and the nature of the programme and contribution, for example when the content is exceptionally sensitive or where the contributor could be considered vulnerable. Advice is available from Editorial Policy.
Where 'parental consent' is required and parents are estranged or divorced, we will normally obtain the consent of the parent to whom a residence order has been granted, depending on the particular circumstances of the case. We should consider the extent of the other parent's involvement with the child or young person and, where we are not seeking their consent, listen to any reasonable objections they may have. Advice is available from Editorial Policy.
Any proposal to continue with the contribution of a child or young person after a refusal of 'parental consent' must be referred to a senior editorial figure or, for independents, to the commissioning editor. Editorial Policy should also be consulted. Proceeding without 'parental consent' is normally only editorially justified on the basis of a clear public interest or the freedom of the child or young person to express themselves, including their right to speak out.
When we ask children for personal information online we need to consider the standard of proof of 'parental consent' that is appropriate, taking account of the sensitivity of the subject matter and the age of the child. Options include:
- simply prompting a child to ask for 'parental consent'
- using a clickable check box to confirm that 'parental consent' has been obtained before allowing a child to proceed
- requiring verifiable 'parental consent', such as a signed letter.
Advice on the appropriate standard of proof to use is available from Editorial Policy.
When we invite children to interact with us using technology that costs money, such as the telephone or text message, we must make clear on-air or online that they must obtain the consent of a parent or bill payer before contacting us.