Associate Professor Amanda Third is Principal Research Fellow in Digital Social and Cultural Research at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney. She’s also a mum, and knows that sharing stuff online about your children can be a minefield.

Parents often get conflicting advice about whether or not it’s ok for them to take and share their children’s images online. Some parents share images readily. Others hold back because they worry that their children might be embarrassed later on or that posting images of their children online potentially exposes their family to harm.

So just how should parents handle these issues?

First: talk to your kids

If you believe it’s important to share photos of your child, make sure you have conversations with your child about it. If they’re old enough to understand, talk with them about what you wish to do, where the photos will go and what the potential consequences are. By having these conversations early and often, your child is going to grow up more aware of the strengths and pitfalls of having their image online. It is also important to help your child understand that you will continue to be part of their life online, and can help them along the journey. This is an important step in building children's digital literacy, teaching them how to be safe online, and preparing them to get the most from their digital interactions.

But, hang on, my child can't legally give consent for me to share their photo, can they?

Correct. But that’s not the main point of involving them. By asking your child if it’s ok to take their picture, and then having a conversation about whether and how you can share it online, you are modelling good practice. If you can have these conversations early and often, you can help your child understand the digital world, make decisions that keep themselves and others safe, and enable them to get the most out of being online. It also lets them know they can speak to you about anything they encounter online and that you plan to be involved in their digital lives.

How can I start a conversation with my child about sharing their photos online?

Whenever you want to take your child’s photo, we suggest that you explain why you’d like to take a photo, and then ask them whether it’s ok for you to do so. Something like: ’You look so fantastic in your new school uniform. I’d really like to take a photo so we can remember this moment. Is that ok?’

The next step is to talk to your child about how, why and with whom you’d like to share the image—and ask them if that’s ok. For example, ‘I’d really like to share this image with Granny and Grandpa because they are so excited that you are starting school today. Is it ok if I post it online for them to see?’

Wherever possible, involve your child in the process of sharing their image online. Get them to help you choose which image/s to share. Ask who they would like to share it with. Use this process as an opportunity to talk about who it is appropriate to share with and why.

If your child does refuse you permission to share their pictures, you can voice your disappointment (explaining why) but respect their decision because this is about modelling appropriate behaviour for your kids.

cyberSmart logo

Parentline logo

Is it safe to share my children’s pictures online? What can I do to make sure that I’m not doing anything that can harm my child or my family?

Sharing photos online is a wonderful way to share special occasions with friends and family, but it also comes with some risk. There are steps you can take to reduce the possibility of exposure to harm.

  1. Avoid sharing photos and videos that contain personal details, such as full names, personal contact information, or uniforms that identify location.
  2. Avoid adding comments to photos that identify locations, e.g. street address, the name of the school your child is attending, or even identifying features in front of your home.
  3. Only share with people who you really know and trust. Rather than posting to all of your friends on social media, be selective and use the privacy settings on your social media platform. Also, be aware that if one of your friends likes your picture, it may also become visible to their friends. If you’re not comfortable with this, you might reconsider how you share your child’s image.
  4. Always check with other parents before posting and sharing images which include their children.
  5. Be mindful of metadata—most digital photos contain information about the time, date and GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken. Some social media platforms automatically hide or remove this data, so do your homework and know how much info you’re sharing.

Where can I find more information and ideas for dealing with these issues?

What is #talkb4sharing all about?

Through the #talkb4sharing initiative, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University are encouraging parents to talk to their children about how and why they share their back-to-school photos online.

Was this page helpful?


Sign up for newsletter

Stay up to date with online issues, new resources and the latest research

Please specify your interests: