Is it safe to post pictures of my preschoolers 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); turn off your phone's GPS; consider using a nickname for your kids; and think about using photo-sharing sites such as Picasa and Flickr that require users to log in to see pictures (unlike on social media, where all your followers can see them).

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Comments

Parent of a 2, 6, 8, and 8 year old written by FowlerFan

In the early days of Facebook, I had some pictures of my kids up there. And then I moved to Flickr, and had pictures up there - publicly accessible. Then one of the pictures of my kids started getting a lot of views ... it was an innocent picture, but I could see how some warped mind could view it otherwise. From then on, I've stuck with Flickr, but any picture with my kids in it is only shared with friends and family - a group of around 10 people, all of which I know. I also prefer Flickr because it allows you to retain full copyright control over the pictures. I think, by internet standards, it is as safe as it can be. Some may say not to post online at all, but for me, not only does Flickr allow me to share with people and relatives worldwide, it's also a backup in case my house burns down.
Parent of a 5 and 7 year old written by jonmiles27

Greg Neumayer-- I agree. It's a nice little article but I'd have preferred if it had said a lot more about safety. The safety issues seem to have to do with the sentence, "Someone could easily copy the photo, tag it, save it, or otherwise use it -- and you might never know," but it would be nice to have more explanation on how that might lead to a safety issue-- how easy it is for someone to misuse it, is it only an issue if the child's name is attached to it, what about a newspaper photo that also gets posted to the newspaper's website, etc.
Parent of a 3, 6, and 9 year old written by GregNeumayer

I would've liked this article to say more about the actual headline--- Is it safe? I don't consider receiving (possibly more relevant) advertising as a safety issue. What is the worst that could happen? What is plausible and common? Any horror stories about abuse? And are these cases rare or common? Most people already have a general apprehension about posting images of their kids, but is someone in Europe finding out my kids names more dangerous than a creepy guy trailing my wife at a soccer game? I'd like to read about these digital dangers in context of the real dangers already near our kids today. I'm not saying it's safe. I'm just saying that the article as it stands is a waste of an attention-grabbing headline. If I were your high-school teacher, I'd send you home with it for another round.