The truth about sharing photos of other people's kids on social media

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In our technologically driven age, it's the norm for children to have a digital footprint. Most babies have been all over their parent's social media feeds since before they were even born.

But while being plastered on your own parent's feed is one thing, being on others is another.

Sam Harper is mum to Jacob, aged one. She's a regular user of Facebook and uploads photos of Jacob every few weeks. However, she doesn't want other people doing the same.

"I think for me it's about control and 'ownership' if that doesn't sound too possessive," she says.

"Jacob is my son, and therefore any photos that are posted by my husband or I are done so knowing that we're the ones responsible for him and for making decisions on his behalf when he can't."

Harper says that other people posting photos of Jacob wouldn't be vetting them through her eyes and would also be giving strangers access to viewing him.

"I've had issues before with my in-laws sharing photos online and, unfortunately, because they didn't stop doing it when asked, I now don't send them any."

Lisa Smit echoes Harper's thoughts and concerns. However, unlike Harper, Smit doesn't even post pictures of her son herself.

"I really struggled with the whole dilemma when Nathan was born. I really wanted to show him off to everybody, but Facebook had become such an impersonal website due to all the 'obligatory friends' I'd acquired along the way, that I didn't want everyone having access to pics of him."


Like Harper, Smit feels that she's unlikely to change her mind about posting pictures in the future. In fact, she says the longer she refrains from doing it, the less likely she'll be to ever do it.

For parents such as Harper and Smit, newsletters like the recent one from a local school will be a blessing in years to come.

The letter clearly states that, while parents are welcome to photograph their own child at school events and upload to social media, they're not to do the same with other children without expressed consent from their parents.

But not everyone feels as strongly.

Leanne Martin uploads photos of her son, Cian, every day and has no problem with other people doing the same.

"I guess for me personally I'm happy for friends and family to post pictures with my son on Facebook because it's a memorable moment for them that they'd like to share," she says.

"On occasion, another mum may post a photo of Cian playing with their child, but I'd never object to that because I'd feel rude telling them they couldn't post a picture of their own child."

The debate of sharing photos of children online is nothing new, and leaves many parents divided.

A recent study by the UK's communications watchdog found that 56 per cent of parents surveyed would not post images of their children, and 70 per cent did not think it was ok to share images of others without permission.

36 per cent strongly believe that personal photos should be restricted to friends and followers.

Parenting expert, Martine Oglethorpe, says that when it comes to uploading pictures of other children it's always important to respect their parent's prerogative.

"Uploading photos of children is certainly a parent's personal choice and there are many reasons why parents choose to share or not to share," she says. "It's a matter of respect to check with them before you post pictures of their children."

Oglethorpe says that some parents don't want others posting pictures of their children for fear that they'll land in the wrong hands. Other parents don't like the idea of others playing a role in forming their child's digital footprint.

While posting pictures of other people's children can be an issue, Oglethorpe says that it isn't overly common.

"Most people have a pretty good understanding of their friends' wishes when it comes to posting photos and, generally, common sense prevails. Most people take into account how a child would feel and would never post photos of another child that would seem embarrassing or compromise them in any way."

Oglethorpe advises that most parents she talks to tend to use the rule of thumb that, if the parent is seen to be posting lots of photos of their children, then someone else posting a photo is generally going to be OK.

"Not everyone agrees with that sentiment however, so it's still a good idea to check first," she says.

"If you've already had permission to post a photo of a child before, then I'd say that for, the majority of people, they'd deem it acceptable to post photos again without getting permission every time."