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Is It Safe To Post Photos of Your Kids Online?

No, sharing photos of your children online isn't always safe. Posting pictures and information can risk your child's security despite the best intentions. But there are a few ways to manage the risks.

Parenthood is a thrilling journey full of firsts: the first steps, the first word, the first day of school. Parents often want to share these milestones with friends and family members on social media.

You can set boundaries with privacy settings, but some limits are beyond parents' control. There are several factors to consider before you post pictures and details about your children.

Who Can See the Photos of Your Kids?

Anyone might eventually see a photo of your child online. An innocent post of a child's life story may end up in the hands of someone who does not have the child's best interest at heart.

Your privacy settings don't always guarantee that you can control who sees your photos. It only takes one person to repost your image elsewhere online before others can access it.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok can't stop other users from downloading your content or taking screenshots. Temporary photo-sharing features like Snapchat and Instagram Stories don't prevent this possibility either.

Do Family Photos Have Copyright Protection?

Yes, you hold the rights to your photos, but online publication can change the specific type of protection you have. A photo of your child's day at the zoo is technically a creative work under copyright laws. Taking the picture gives you full ownership rights.

Digital images are easy to download or copy, but users can't violate your copyright. Other people wouldn't usually have the right to distribute your photo without your permission or fair use.

Yet, using a website might give permission to use your photo according to its terms and privacy policy. The terms typically let the website distribute pictures to people who view your profile or content.

Yet, the terms may also grant extra uses of your photo without asking you directly. For example, the website might let other users share your photos with their own social network. Or, the website may share users' photos with advertisers.

Identity Theft of Children

Photos of children have been used for cybercrimes. For example, digital kidnapping involves someone taking a child's photo and creating a fake account in their name. The creator might use the account for illegal or unethical purposes, such as running a scam.

Identity thieves may also comb your social media account for details like photos of the places you've lived. They can use this information to pretend to be you or your child outside social media.

Crimes Concerning Photos of Children

In a worst-case scenario, child predators may find the photo. Report cases of child sexual abuse, including explicit images, to a law enforcement agency. You can also seek to take down illegal or misused photos through a child protection organization like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

How To Protect Your Digital Photos Online

Many factors can raise or lower your risk when posting online. Below are a few tips to protect the privacy and safety of your child's photos.

Manage Your Social Media Accounts With Caution

Check the privacy settings on your profiles. Though they aren't foolproof, they can help reduce risk. For example, consider only making your posts and photos visible to people you have personally approved.

Read the Terms of Service (TOS) fine print on photo-sharing websites and other social networks. Check how the terms allow the company to use and reproduce your photos.

Share Photos Through Private Channels

The best way to keep photos private is to limit access. If you want to share your toddler's cute fingerpainting photo with grandparents, consider sending it to them directly.

Private options like email or text messages can lower the chance your picture might end up in strangers' hands. Many photo-sharing websites also let you set up password protection or invitation-only access. These options help ensure strangers and search engines can't find your photos.

Remove Information From Photo Files

Your camera or phone might be tracking — and communicating — more than you know. Devices typically record metadata for every image you take. Metadata can include details like the camera or settings you used. It can also capture the time and location.

Most users never see this data because it hides in the image file properties. Yet, people hunting for more details about your family may uncover it.

Check your device settings to turn off identifying details like geotagging. Otherwise, it is possible to manually delete this information after taking the picture.

Check for Other Sensitive Information

Some of the details you may want to exclude from any online sharing can include:

  • Your child's full name
  • Your child's date of birth
  • Where they attend school
  • Signs, map pins, or other clues about your family's geographic location
  • Embarrassing or compromising moments involving your children, including nudity, illness, or tantrums

Posting this information can raise the likelihood of issues like identity theft and kidnapping. Sharing a minor's sensitive details can even risk civil or criminal penalties for parents. Review the contents of your photos and captions before posting.

Parental Controls for Minors

Young children often learn how to navigate this digital world early in life. They may figure out how to upload photos of themselves — without parental approval. But children can face serious risks, including identity fraud and photo-related cybercrimes.

Social media sites are subject to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This Act requires companies to explain how they collect and use data of users under 13. They must also offer a set of parental control options.

These settings may be helpful, but remember they might not stop all dangers. Teaching your child about online privacy is also a wise precaution.

Taking Down Viral Family Photos

Some parents have shared photos of their children in a highly public manner, known as "sharenting" or "mommy blogging." Families have built viral social accounts to document their lives as influencers. Even these public-facing families have certain privacy rights under the law.

But if you never intended your photo to trend across the internet, virality can be a troubling invasion of privacy. Your child may face a digital footprint following them well into the future. You can consider taking legal action if someone took or shared your child's photo without your consent.

Know Your Family's Rights and Protections

Privacy and safety concerns for your children deserve immediate attention. Speak with an internet and cybercrime lawyer in your state for more information about protecting your rights.

Most uploaded online digital photos could become subject to public view. A good rule of thumb is always thinking about the platform, location, and nature of the pictures you upload.

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