Resources and discussion for parents, teachers and young people navigating the evolving landscape of the digital world.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sharing Photos Online - What are the rules?

This past fall, Sam and I were invited to appear on our local TV station, King5, for a segment on their Take5 show. They happened to be broadcasting live from the Puyallup Fair, so it was an easy jaunt down to the fairgrounds one Friday afternoon to be interviewed about social media etiquette, particularly as it relates to sharing photos. After the producers found us online through a Google search, they reached out about taping a segment of the show focused on "whether it's okay to post photos of other people's kids (without their parents' permission)." How do we feel about this?

Short answer: We don’t think adults should post pics of other people’s kids without their consent.

More detailed answer: We believe that this is one of those areas where we can begin to teach the concept of consent to our children in a respectful way, no matter their age. We often see incidents where someone has taken an unflattering picture or video of someone and posted it publicly for the world to comment upon and ridicule. While that’s extreme, parents can model appropriate behavior and good digital citizenship by showing their children that they share media respectfully, too. Simply asking for permissions before you take a picture should be an easy thing to do, we just need to develop the habit.

We would advise parents NOT to post photos of other people’s children without their consent (the child him/herself and for the very young, they would need the other parent’s consent). Children often have a digital footprint established before they are even aware of it. As they grow older, we want them to have some agency over what that footprint looks like, and this is an easy conversation for families to have. They can even look through a collection of photos together and decide which ones should be posted. Then, when it comes to other people’s children in photos, the stage is set for asking the questions. For example, last year at my daughter’s Homecoming, we hosted some of her friends for dinner before the dance, and then we took group photos before they left. I asked them if it was okay to post the photos on Instagram and Facebook, where their parents (who I’m friends with) could see them. They said it was okay, and for a few, I texted photos directly to their parents, who had asked ahead of time for me to send them some. In this case, since I wasn't their mother, the kids were actually more agreeable about me sharing their photos than their own parents. Ah, teenagers. :)

Obviously, issues around photo sharing aren't always that simple, especially when it comes to sports teams, group events, recitals, etc. People want to share these things—and with the very best of intentions. Always stopping to get permission seems overbearing and laborious. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea. A better option might be to have coaches or teachers establish team media guidelines and ask that people who do NOT want their child's photo shared to let them know. In large groups, it's easier to be respectful of people's wishes when we know who opts out, who shouldn't be in the photo, rather than asking each individual for permission to be included. The assumption is that photos will be taken and shared in the group setting. As long as that is clearly communicated ahead of time, parents can feel more confident that they aren't doing anything unexpected or disrespectful.

What do you think?

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