Posting pictures of kids online. It’s a contentious topic and one that most parents have strong opinions on. Trust me when I say it’s controversial. Of all the topics that divide parents in the workshops I deliver, this is definitely one of them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Parenting is hard. Parenting in the digital age is so much harder.
There are just so many more things for us to consider. There are new technologies to navigate. And just when we think we have a handle over the latest social media trend, or app, along comes something new.
As parents, we’re navigating this digital terrain for the first time.
And we don’t have a frame of reference. We didn’t grow up in a digital world and so this is all brand new to us. We’re literally figuring things out as we go. We’re making decisions on the run. And that’s not always easy and it often means that we don’t have time to pause and reflect on our decisions (pfft- I’m a parent and I know that having time to pause and reflect would bea luxury. Much like doing the grocery shopping without little ones ‘assisting’ would be a luxury).
So after a recent Parent Seminar I delivered a parent told me about a sad falling out she’d had with her girlfriend. And it was all over posting and tagging pictures of her friend’s children on Facebook. She was unaware that her friend didn’t want any pictures of her children posted online because of a strong desire for family privacy. And this story really got me thinking.
Is it okay to post pictures of your kids online? Is it okay to post pictures ofother people’s kids online?
If I’m perfectly honest I hadn’t really given it much thought up until this time. My husband and I decided that we’re happy to post a couple of photos of our boys on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Not all the time, but every now and then. And not always recognisable photos where their faces are clearly seen. And we always MMS each other any pictures before we post them online. It’s just what we do. It doesn’t mean it’s what’s right for your family. It’s our family’s Media Policy (more on that coming up).
So is it okay to post pictures of your kids online?
Now I’m going to dodge answering this question. Why? It’s not my place to say whether you should or shouldn’t post pictures of your children online (remember it’s a contentious topic and I don’t want to open up this can of worms). Remember, there’s no techno-shaming here.
But as a family, you need to come up with a Family Media Policy.
You need to decide if you want to post pictures of your children online. It’s totally a personal decision. And one that you and your partner need to collectively make (and then communicate to other family members and friends).
Now a Family Media Policy sounds very serious, but it doesn’t need to be (heck, it doesn’t even need to be written down, if you don’t want to). You just need to give some thought to some important questions. Here’s a starting point in terms of online photos:
- Is it okay to post pictures of your little ones online?
- Where will you post these pictures? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Blog posts?
- Will you tag photos?
- How many photos will you post?
- What are your privacy settings on the places where you’re sharing photos? Are they publically accessible photos or have you set privacy restrictions?
- Are there any types of photos that you don’t want posted (i.e. nude photos, upset children, children in bathrooms etc).
My only hard and fast rules if you do decide to post pictures of your little ones online are:
1. Always ask permission to post the picture. I know it seems strange (and probably pedantic), but you’re creating a digital footprint for your little one. So you really should have permission before you post their picture online. Now I know that babies may not be able to signal their consent but toddlers and pre-schoolers can so you can start early.
The other reason that you should ask before you post is because you’re setting up lifelong media habits for your child. They need to learn that it’s not okay to upload photos and tag people without their consent. You can possibly avoid all sorts of awkward and icky future situations when they’re older, if they understand the correct digital etiquette from a young age.
2. Only post respectful images and comments. It goes without saying that the photos you post of your little ones should not be degrading, shameful or a subtle form of punishment. Remember, these photos can often leave a permanent record. A digital footprint.
Now I know that this may surprise some of you (I was flabbergasted when I read about it the other day), but baby shaming onesies are now a trend. This is where parents are taking photos of their babies and young children with hand-written signs and often with derogatory comments. Now I’m not the fun police. I like a good laugh, but not at the expense of a baby or little one being humiliated or shamed. Sure, a baby won’t know that they’ve been humiliated by your comment about their poo that you posted on Facebook, but is it really necessary or appropriate?
So is it okay to post pictures of other people’s kids online?
My recommendation is to err on the side of caution. Always ask permission before you post. Different families have different beliefs about sharing online photos of their little ones. Some families are happy to share photos. In fact they share LOTS of photos. There’s even a term for parents who post pictures of everything their child does. It’s called ‘sharenting’. (We all know someone who sharents, don’t we?)
But other parents don’t want any photos of their children posted online. And we need to respect their desires.
So the best thing that you can do is to ask your friends before you post any pictures of their children online. Is it okay to post pictures of their children? Are there any types of photos that they don’t want shared? Do you tag photos of them or their parents? Would they prefer that you send them any pictures first before uploading them online, so they can veto any pictures that they don’t want included?
So basically, if we ask permission (of our children or our friends or family) to post pictures of little ones online then we’re likely to be doing the right thing. And we can avoid those awkward conversations or situations.
I’d love to know do you have a family policy regarding your children’s online photos? Have you had any awkward moments with photos of your children being posted online?
I talk to parents throughout Australia about screen-time and how parents can help their children use technology in healthy and helpful ways (and also minimise any potential risks). Click here to find out more.