Children’s photos on the net — How (not) to post about your child

Published: 17 December 2018

You may be familiar with Facebook’s timeline, where you inevitably bump into cute photos of children. You should consider who can view these family moments of joy you so happily share, whether they can result in any threat, and most importantly the impact they may have in the present and in the future on the main character of the story, your child. Keeping in mind certain safety considerations and the child’s opinion can best serve the child's interests.

Everyone can decide for themselves what information and images they want to share on the internet about their lives, and what photos others can share about them. Before sharing a picture about someone else, you need to ask for the person’s permission to make the photo public, even if it is only a simple Facebook post. But what about children and their rights?

According to a research, an average of 107 photos have been posted on the internet of every child born around 2000 even before they could walk. In fact, it is no longer surprising to see the ultrasound image or photos of a newborn’s first moments (literally) on social media. Running an Instagram search for #newborn returns 14.6 million photos, which means that you can browse through the pictures of millions of unknown people’s newborn babies.

Under domestic law, the parent is the one who decides on matters relating to the child, including whether he shares the image of his child on social media and, if so, with whom. In Austria, a girl sued her parents when she turned 18 because, despite her repeated requests, her parents had failed to remove their photos of her from their social media page and even shared new ones. Parents have the right to freely express their opinions and parental identities, but they also have an obligation to protect their children from the dangers of both the offline and the online worlds, and not to violate their children’s right to privacy. Therefore, parents are responsible for their children’s digital footprint, yet they typically fail to consider the future of an image shared with great enthusiasm and basically with benevolence, as well as its potential dangers and negative consequences.

Intimacy, dignity, security risks

Once you share an image, it can be downloaded from then on, shared with others, even without you knowing about it. Publication of children’s photos is a matter of concern in several ways. Every day you can see pictures of nude kids taken on the beach during summer vacations or the evening bathing. However, many people do not think about the possibility of these pictures seen by people who specifically hunt for such images to upload them to paedophile websites. This is, of course, one of the worst case scenarios, but the threat is real.

Of course, you cannot sought the opinion of an infant, but years later children may and will have an opinion on the pictures shared about them. As a rule of thumb, you should consider this before clicking on the “share” button: what will she or he think about it as a teenager? If possible, ask your child if he or she wants to share that particular information of her, whether she consents. Actually, a reckless sharing can easily injure the child’s privacy rights and human dignity. An image that a parent thinks of being cute can be embarrassing for a teenager, and can provide a basis for peer bullying at school.

There are also security issues. The innocent image of the child, or even a text post, can carry a lot of tiny but essential information that we unintentionally share with the world. Things like where we live, where and when we go to on vacation, which school our child goes to, and what she likes to do and eat. Even a family’s daily routine can be put together from such pieces of information, which is a clear danger to the child. For a stranger, such information can help get closer to the child in the real world.

Share only with a narrow group and decide in advance what you want to share

The radical solution is that parents do not share content about their child at all, because they have not received the child’s consent and can cause trouble with it.

If we approach the subject with less extreme, it can be a compromise if parents think about what image they publish and exactly where and to whom it would be accessible. Public sharing, i.e. available to anyone (really anyone) is not recommended at all. Facebook already offers great options for special visibility: you can create a closed group for family members, close friends, or even a folder that can only be accessed by specific people. More information about creating a group:

It also matters what kind of picture appears on the Internet. Do not share photos depicting your children naked or in a vulnerable situation (such as sick, fussy, crying, sitting on the potty) violating their dignity. When posting a photo of your child playing with other little ones, permission from the other parents is also required.

From a security point of view, it is recommended to filter the personal information shared about the child, so it is not advisable to publish her full name, place and date of birth, address, the name of the school or the kindergarten. Create rules for yourself, like how often you post about her, which one of her activities you think can be shared and whether you can show her face, for example.

The child also has the right to express his/her opinion when others sharing pictures or information about him/her, and you must also respect his/her position.

More about the research:

One in five millennial parents picked their baby’s name based on available web domains, study claims

The case of the Austrian girl:

Beperelte szüleit, a Facebookon róla megosztott ciki fotók miatt