Blogger Jennifer Borget had always felt comfortable sharing photos of her family online, yet she felt disconcerted after seeing a photo on a "Scandal" fan page featuring her children’s faces edited into a picture with characters Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald Grant.
With so many parents using social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to post family photos, do they need to worry about the photos they’re sharing being taken?
The short answer: yes.
“If you don’t want photos of your kids used, don’t post. Copyright doesn’t protect,” says Michele Borba, a parenting expert and TODAY contributor. “Once you click, there are no take backs.”
If parents truly want to protect the photos of their children while sharing with friends and family members, send photos via email, she says. While that can still be hacked, it generally exposes the photos to far fewer people.
Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting expert and TODAY contributor, urges parents to use the strictest privacy settings on social media sites to prevent people from stealing photos. But she acknowledges that these measures are often not enough.
“This is a fact of life that if you are going to put photos on the Internet, you are going to quite possibly see them in places you wouldn’t expect. If you are entirely opposed to that, you very may well have to consider not putting them online,” she says.
Even though posting pictures remains insecure, Gilboa says parents can be smarter about it. Never include children’s first or last names and other identifying information, such as street address, school or other details that could make it easier for predators to locate children.
When kids become old enough — around 7 or 8 years old — parents should ask their children if they can post pictures of them.
“We also want our kids to feel they are in control of what happens to their bodies,” she says, adding parents want their children to be able to say, “No, you can’t post that picture of me. Delete that.”
She says allowing children to veto their parents’ photo decisions empowers them to tell their friends when they do not like something their friends post about them.
If parents share photos of their children and someone uses the photo in an unintended way, Gilboa says parents should use that as a teaching moment. First, apologize for sharing the photo and not realizing the consequences. Then parents should ask children what they want to happen. Should Mom and Dad contact the user and try to get them to take it down? Do the kids simply want to shrug it off?
“The online world is part of our world,” says Gilboa. “We have to engage in these conversations with them and talk about consent and adapt with the times.”