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Why Some Parents Do (And Don't) Post Photos Of Their Kids Online

There are some very real risks, but also ways to share photos more safely.
Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

Whether or not to post pics of your kids on social media is a hot topic, and many parents have strong opinions either way. There are some parents who post nothing at all, and some who share every little detail.

According to a recent survey by McAfee, nearly two-thirds of parents agree that online photos could end up in the wrong hands, but 40 per cent of parents believe it's their right to post images without the consent of their child.

For Taylor Black of Cobourg, Ont., sharing photos of her 18-month-old son is a way to share his adventures, accomplishments, and memories with her family and friends.

"I know that seeing his pictures brightens a lot of their days," Black told HuffPost Canada. "I am also a photographer, and taking photos makes me happy."

A recent survey found 40 per cent of parents believe it's their right to post images without the consent of their child.
wundervisuals via Getty Images
A recent survey found 40 per cent of parents believe it's their right to post images without the consent of their child.

Black's son is also a brand rep, so she frequently shares pictures of him on social media for the brand to use.

"I don't mind it because it is getting my personal work out there for people to see, and it's what I love to do," Black said. "I was always sharing photos of him from birth up to now, and it never really crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn't be sharing these images."

Some parents don't post photos at all due to safety concerns

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Samantha (who asked for her last name to be withheld for safety reasons) hasn't shared a single photo of her daughter online, due in part to her husband's career in law enforcement.

"For her safety we didn't want to broadcast her face, and we feel that it wasn't appropriate to document her whole life online without knowing what type of repercussions that could have for her in the future," the Toronto mom told HuffPost Canada.

Some parents choose not to post any photos of their children.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Some parents choose not to post any photos of their children.

"Now more than ever, I feel like we made the right decision. It makes me feel more present in her life when I'm not trying to snap that 'perfect Insta picture' of her day."

Neither Black nor Samantha said they've experienced any criticism or backlash from friends and family for their decisions, with Black saying she receives messages asking where pics of her son are if she happens to miss a day of posting.

If you're going to post photos, here's how to do it safely

Paul Davis, a social media and online safety educator, says that when it comes to posting photos of children online, parents should ask themselves the purpose of posting the photo — whether it's for the purposes of marketing their child, or because they really just want to share a moment with family and friends.

"If you're going to share it on a social platform like Facebook, make sure your account is as secure as it can be," he told HuffPost Canada. "Depending on how tech savvy you are, this can take somewhere between six and 10 minutes."

The McAfee survey found that nearly three-quarters of parents are only sharing photos of children on private social media accounts, which is where Davis starts with his first recommendation for parents. He advises only "friending" people you know personally and speak to regularly.

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The next step, David said, is to only upload images that have been reduced in size to 640 by 480 pixels.

"When you take a photo with your smartphone, you're getting an average 10-14 megapixels in the picture, which means if you upload a photo and it's full resolution, anyone can download it and replicate it," he said.

Smaller-sized photos are still nice for online sharing, but if someone tries to save it or print it, the image will appear pixelated and be unusable. Davis understands this extra step takes a bit more work, but believes it's worth it for protecting images of children online.

Don't tag people, locations in photos of your children

He says that as tempting as it might be to tag someone, even children, when uploading photos to social media, parents should avoid it whenever possible. This is because when you tag someone in a photo, it embeds their name into the code of that photo, which search engines like Google crawl and archive.

"Now Google knows that there's a Bobby Smith in the photo, and if someone is doing a Google search it will eventually lead to the person's account," he said. And the same rule applies for the geolocation function on your camera or cell phone, which has the ability to write the time and location into the coding of the photo.

"You don't have to be a tech guy or a cyber guy [to access that information]," Davis said. "You can identify that pictures are taken in a certain spot on a certain time everyday, and the bad guys of the world misuse that information."

Looking at physical photo albums can be more special

Samantha says she understands it's easier to share images on social media with family and friends, but that the extra effort to send images to them separately is worth it for her family's peace of mind.

"Even with friends in the city, a few have commented that they think it's more special to come over and visit with us, and look through the photo albums I've been making and to spend time with my daughter, instead of just seeing her photos online," she said


Davis said he also prefers hard copy photo books for sharing family pictures with friends and family.

"When someone comes over and we go through a photo book, it's human interaction and they get to see the picture versus seeing this over-posting of children through their parents accounts all the time," he said.

Parents can't always control other people's photos

One thing parents might not have control over is whether or not others post photos of their children in a group setting such as sports or family events.

Samantha says her family hasn't had any major issues with group settings where people are taking photos, and just mentions to any photographer that their family doesn't want images posted online.

"Everyone has been fine with that," she said. "There have only been a few instances where people have posted photos of our daughter, and I just shoot them a quick message asking them to please take down the photo."

Thomas Barwick

Black has recently pulled back from sharing pictures of her son in online groups, after being in a group where a member was let in and stole photos of people's children to post them on their own "photography page."

"It's really scary how they can create a fake profile and get into these parenting groups as easily as they do," Black said.

Despite this risk, Black says she doesn't think she'll ever stop sharing pictures of her child.

"I have my social media locked down so the public can't see much of it, and I only add people that I know. I think something drastic would have to happen for me to stop sharing his pictures all together," she said.

Samantha says her family has no immediate plans of changing their no photos online rule, but that things could change as her daughter gets older and has a say in what she wants to share online.

Davis echoes this common-sense approach for sharing photos online, encouraging parents to be very selective and smart about what they share, and taking some precautionary steps to ensure their images can't be misused.

"When you understand the technology, this all becomes common sense."

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