How to talk to your kids about getting a photo removed

Emma McGowan 29 Oct 2020

Children have a right to control their own identities online, even when their identity overlaps with those of their parents

Today’s kids are growing up with not only their friends and siblings posting pictures of them, but sometimes years and years of photos that their parents posted before they had a say in the matter. As a result, it’s pretty common for a kid to ask someone to take down a photo: According to the Avast Kids Online: Generation Lockdown survey, 48 percent of kids over the age of 12 have done so at some point. 

But asking someone — like a parent — to take down a photo can be daunting and even kind of scary. So how do you help your kids have those conversations?

Psychotherapist and author Catherine Knibbs, who works with young people who have experienced trauma online, points out that all of our photos used to be kept in albums at home, where only people who were physically in our homes had access to them. But, these days, those family photo albums are open to whomever has access to our profiles. 

“People are so keen to share the moment and share their pride that often they forget that their children have feelings about those photos as well,” Knibbs tells Avast. 

Those feelings might range from embarrassment over having a funny face in the photo to hating that they’re wearing dorky socks. Knibbs says that the reasons might seem silly to an adult, but to a child they can feel like life or death. And parents need to respect those feelings. 

In order to do that, Knibbs recommends having a conversation about each photo before you post them. Ask your child which of the 3,563 photos of them crossing the finish line they’d prefer you post.

“Say something like, ‘Mommy’s really proud and she wants to put these pictures on the internet. Is that okay?’” Knibbs suggests.

And then let them choose their favorite! Ask them if they’re okay with you sharing it in a specific place and tell them who will see it there. And listen if they say they’d really just prefer you don’t post at all. 

Further reading:
Your kids know more about the internet than you do
Are you having the right conversations about online safety with your kids?
How can I prepare my kid for digital independence?

On the kid’s end, encourage your children to come to you if they’re not happy with a photo you’ve posted. Knibbs suggests telling them that they’re always welcome to tell you when they feel uncomfortable with something you’ve posted and are nervous to talk about it. That leaves the door open for them to advocate for themselves, not just with you but with other people. 

Because, ultimately, children have a right to control their own identities online — even in the spots where their identity overlaps with their parents. And part of identity development is determining where their identities begin and their parents’ end. Keep that mind the next time your kid says, “MOM! THAT’S SO EMBARRASSING!” about the adorable photo you posted of them in the sink when they were a baby. It’s their image; their identity; their right — no matter how cute those chubby thighs were.

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