Netiquette: Is it OK to share pictures of someone else's kids online?

Emma McGowan 23 Sep 2022

Dear Avast, I recently hosted a birthday party for my child. I want to post the photos on social media, but I'm not sure if it's OK to post pictures of my kid's friends online. What should I do?

Go to any children’s performance, birthday party, or even just a day at the beach and you’ll see a sea of cellphones snapping pics. And who can blame those snap-happy parents? Children, like pets, are perpetually adorable to the humans who love them. 

But a growing number of parents are concerned about their children's images appearing online. Their concerns range from loss of privacy, to fears that past images will affect their college admissions process, to concerns that their children's images may be scraped by facial recognition. Others believe their children should decide when and where they share their photos when they are older. 

Regardless of whether 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 can feel awkward but it’s really as simple as sending a text and saying “This photo is so cute! Do you mind if I share it on Instagram?” (Or even asking in person in the moment — whatever works for you!)

While this might 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 American and UK parents don’t ask first before posting photos of someone else’s kids: Only about 23% of UK parents and 20% of US parents as before sharing. 

Yikes. Considering the fact that about 28% of UK parents and 19% of US parents use social media but never share photos of their kids, you can imagine that there’s a lot of potential for conflict there.

It’s also a good idea to "invite a no,” which just means saying “Please feel free to say no; I totally get it if you guys don’t share photos online.” That makes the whole situation less awkward for both of you and gives them permission up front to be clear about their boundaries.

2. Don’t assume everyone has the same standards.

You might be totally fine with photos 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 for sure know your own standards, you don't know anyone else’s standards until you ask. So don’t assume that they’re operating under the same principles that you’re following.

You also can’t know for sure if someone still has the same policies around sharing that they had the last time you asked. These things can change, especially as children get older and have more say about things like image sharing. It’s worth it to check in periodically with your parent friends to see where they’re at, even if you think you already know. It’s way less awkward than sharing and then having them get upset or ask you to take the photo down

3. Utilize emojis to cover other children’s faces.

One workaround for sharing images if the other parent doesn’t want their kid online is to ask if you can cover their face with an emoji. This makes it possible for you to share your child’s fun or proud moment online without exposing someone else’s child against their consent. 

Some parents might not be okay with even this solution, however, so it really is important to ask for permission before posting, even with an emoji. Always default to asking for consent.

4. Crop the image.

Just crop that other kid out! Seriously! Because let’s be real: You’re only sharing because your child is in the photo. It’s okay. You can admit it. We’re not here to judge. 

5. Take down a photo if asked.

Finally, if you do post a photo that you think is okay but another parent reaches out and asks you to take it down, do so immediately and without question. If you really really want your kid to still be on your feed, you can repost with one of the suggestions for obscuring other children that we covered above.

But don’t argue or advocate to keep the original one up. Remember: You don’t have rights to the images of other people’s children. Treat them the way you’d like to be treated by taking it down and sending over a quick apology. 

In our Netiquette column, we answer questions from our readers about how to be a good internet citizen. Have a question that you’d like answered? Get in touch with us and let us know.

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