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Posting photos of kids online: What’s the right approach?

It’s always interesting to see the various approaches that parents take when it comes to social networking. As more and more moms venture onto Facebook, I am starting to see more and more pictures of kids. Whereas before, posting pictures of your kids online was something of a no-no, it has now become almost commonplace.

Whether they are photos from a family vacation, a trip to the local zoo, or just a fun day at home, proud moms are only too eager to upload smiling pictures of little Jimmy and Jane for family, friends – and sometimes all the world – to see.

But is this trend healthy? Is our propensity to share everything online giving us a false sense of security? Are we putting our kids at risk, however small that risk might be?

Here, opinion seems to be equally divided. Those who happily post pictures of their kids say that it’s quite safe and the chances of their kids being stalked by predators are statistically insignificant.

Experts seem to agree. In a 2009 article in the New York Times, Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the Family Online Safety Institute was quoted as saying: “Research shows that there is virtually no risk of pedophiles coming to get kids because they found them online.” While the debate makes this crime seem common, he said, all the talk is really just “techno-panic.”

Others disagree. If nothing else, they say, posting family photos online can send a mixed message to our kids. From an early age we teach them not to talk to strangers and be careful not to reveal personal information, but then we ignore our own rules just because it’s Facebook.

And it’s not just predators. That same Times article suggested that the real danger is that a photo could be misappropriated or mistreated. There have been several well-documented stories of horrified parents discovering that the cute picture they took of their son or daughter was now being used in an overseas ad campaign or featured on a disreputable web site.

The truth is, we still have to be careful. Once we post a picture online, we effectively lose control of that picture, ceding re-publication rights to whoever comes across it. So the old adage “Think before you post” still applies – to adults as well as kids.

A few rules for posting images of kids:

  • No bathtub shots or anything provocative. However cute you might think the picture is, it doesn’t belong online.

  • Avoid posting anything that can be used to identify your child's location, like a baseball team logo or school banner.

  • Do not post photos or tag photos of other children without the express approval of their parents.

  • Use strict privacy settings, but keep in mind that however locked down your Facebook page might be, a photo can quickly pass beyond your own list of friends.

  • Monitor your child’s own Facebook page. When your kids are old enough to have their own Facebook pages, keep a close eye on what they post. It’s never too early to teach good online habits!

What’s your view? Is it OK to post pictures of kids online? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by nina balan, posted 9/3/2012, 8:07 PM:

Thanks for this post. I have often thought about these very things and it concerns me. We assume that putting pictures up of our kids is fun and you want to share, but what does this message send to our kids about strangers? I appreciate the insight.
Comment by Kristen Daukas, posted 9/3/2012, 7:47 PM:

I went toe-to-toe with our paper's editor last week because his team had a piece encouraging parents to upload pix of their kids first day of school. With their names AND their schools listed. Granted the final decision is w/the parent but still - I didn't think it was very responsible of the paper. I am very open with posting photos but draw the line at anything that says where they are.
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