Go to any kids show, birthday party, or even a day at the beach and you’ll see a sea of cell phones snapping pictures. And who can blame those happy parents? Children, like pets, are perpetually adorable to the humans who love them.
But a growing number of parents are concerned about images of their children appearing online. Their concerns range from loss of privacy to fear that past footage will affect their college admissions process, to fear that their children’s footage will be erased by facial recognition. Others think their kids should decide when and where to share their photos when they’re older.
Whether or not you share these concerns, the etiquette around photo sharing has changed. So how do you navigate this potentially tricky space? Here are five tips on what to do before posting a photo of someone else’s kids.
1. Always ask first.
Always, always ask before sharing a photo of someone else’s kids. It might sound awkward, but it’s really as simple as texting and saying “That picture is so cute!” Do you mind if I share it on Instagram? (Or even ask in person at the time – whatever works for you!)
While this may seem obvious to some parents, we’re putting it first because a 2020 Avast survey of parents about their online sharing habits found that the vast majority of US and UK parents don’t ask first before post pictures of someone else’s children: Only about 23% of UK parents and 20% of US parents as before sharing.
Yeah. Considering the fact that around 28% of UK parents and 19% of US parents use social media but never share pictures of their children, you can imagine there is great potential for conflict here.
It’s also a good idea to “invite a no”, which simply means to say “Please feel free to say no; I completely understand if you don’t share photos online. This makes the situation less awkward for both of you and gives them permission from the start to be clear about their boundaries.
2. Don’t assume everyone has the same standards.
You might be all for pictures of your kids on any platform, shared by anyone. Or you might have strict rules about where and with whom your child’s image is shared. But while you certainly know your own standards, you don’t know someone else’s standards until you ask. So don’t assume they operate on the same principles you follow.
You also can’t know for sure if someone still has the same sharing policies as the last time you asked. These things can change, especially as kids get older and have more of a say in things like sharing pictures. It’s worth checking in periodically with your parent friends to see where they stand, even if you think you already know. It’s a lot less awkward than sharing and having them get upset or asking you to take the photo down.
3. Use emojis to cover other kids’ faces.
A workaround for sharing pictures if the other parent doesn’t want their child online is to ask if you can cover their face with an emoji. This allows you to share your child’s happy or proud moment online without exposing someone else’s child without their consent.
Some parents might not agree with this solution, however, so it’s really important to ask permission before posting, even with an emoji. By default, always ask for consent.
4. Crop the image.
Just crop that other child! Seriously! Because let’s be real: you only share because your child is in the photo. Its good. You can admit it. We are not here to judge.
5. Take a photo if asked.
Finally, if you post a photo that you think is okay but another parent reaches out and asks you to take it down, do so immediately and no questions asked. If you really want your child to always be on your feed, you can repost with one of the suggestions for hiding other children we covered above.
But don’t argue or advocate keeping the original. Remember: you have no rights to the images of other people’s children. Treat him the way you’d like to be treated by picking him up and sending him a quick apology.
In our Netiquette column, we answer our readers’ questions about how to be a good Internet citizen. Do you have a question you would like answered? Contact us and let us know.