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Privacy and Internet Safety

Is it safe to post pictures of my kid online?

Sharing pictures of our kids with friends and family is one of the most popular uses of social media and has become an everyday way to stay in touch. But it's worth knowing the facts before posting pictures or letting other people post pictures of your kids.

First, posting photos of your kids creates a digital footprint -- a kind of electronic paper trail -- that forms their identities in a world they haven't chosen to enter. Someday your preschoolers will grow up, and they might not want documentation of their diaper days hanging out online for their friends to find! Second, once you post a photo online, you lose control over it. Someone could easily copy the photo, tag it, save it, or otherwise use it -- and you might never know. Finally, everything you post has information that is valuable to advertisers and data collectors; posting a photo of a kid identifies you as someone who might be interested in baby products, for example.

At the very least, you can minimize the consequences with these precautions:

  • Use privacy settings.
  • Limit the audience of a post (only to family, for example).
  • Create a closed, invite-only group on a social media service such as Facebook.
  • Turn off your phone's GPS.
  • Consider using a nickname for your kids.
  • Think about using photo-sharing sites such as Google Photos and Flickr that require users to log in to see pictures (unlike on social media, where all your followers can see them).
  • Don't include your kid's friends in photos that you post.
  • Don't include any personally identifiable information, such as your home address, signs, your kid's school.
  • Be careful if you share custody. It can be emotionally difficult for exes to see photos of their kid when they're not included.
  • Be prepared for feedback of all kinds; not everyone will share the same view of the photo and online comments can lead to misunderstandings.