Posting kid pics online: Parental bragging right or invasion of privacy?

Facebook can be an easy way to share baby and kid photos with family and friends, but when should parents start asking their children for consent? 

AP Photo/Michael Middleton/TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
The world waited on baited breath for Kate Middleton and Britain's Prince William to release photos of the royal baby. While the royal couple released their family photos through the royal press office on Aug. 19, 2013, many parents choose to share images of their newborns and older children via social media. At what point, should parents ask kids for permission?

This is a perennial question, but it’s good that it keeps coming up. In Disney’s, parenting blogger Katie (last name wisely not provided for her son’s privacy), again asks when a child’s right to privacy kicks in and whether parents are violating that right by sharing photos in social media.

“I believe that yes, my son has a right to privacy,” she writes, “but I also believe that [with her baby] at 14 months, it is my job as his mother to decide what is an appropriate amount of sharing/privacy and that it is possible to share pictures and stories without violating that right.” She discusses how there’s no single right answer, that each family has to find the right place for its kids on a kid-privacy spectrum from no online photo sharing at all to sharing privately to sharing a whole lot publicly. She shares only occasionally (admirably trying not to post anything that would be embarrassing if mother-son roles were reversed) and doing a cost-benefit analysis, the benefit being the support system that comes with sharing our lives.

Four years ago Lisa Belkin put a similar question to readers of the New York Times’s “Motherlode” column, but instead of asking when a child’s right to privacy starts, she asked “at what point do parents lose their right to their children’s tales?” Then she elaborated in a way that really pulls you up short: “When do things stop being something that happened to ‘me’ and start being something that happened to ‘them,’ and therefore not ‘mine’ to tell?”

That’s the exact question another parent, Amber Teamann – mother of two (one very young, one almost a teen) and assistant principal in an elementary school – seems to have asked herself four years later. She writes in her blog that she is “very cautious” about sharing information about her older daughter because “I don’t want her to be attached to the social stream of who I have defined her to be. I want her to be her own person, with her own likes, dislikes, pins, etc.”

Clearly all of these parents are mindful that this is a pretty permanent, searchable, global archive in which they’re displaying their children’s photos and milestones, and Belkin even touches on the criticism and trollish behaviors that can emerge online, well after a story about a child has been posted. It would be nice if there were a simple answer to these child privacy questions for all parents, but at least we’re getting better informed about the implications of sharing so we can better draw our own lines in the child-privacy sand. So let’s keep asking this: Do parents have the “online rights” to their children’s life story, and – if so – up to what point in their children’s lives?

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews.

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