Tech & Media

I Ask Permission From My Kids Before I Share Their Photos


Photo © Pinningnarwhals/Twenty20

Sep 19, 2019

Scrolling through Facebook the other evening, I stopped to look at a photo of a friend and her daughter. It was a lovely mother-daughter photo, and their bright smiles caught my eye. I read the brief caption, and started scrolling again. And then stopped. I went back to reread the three words that caught my eye: posted with permission.

The permission in question was the daughter’s, and it made me stop and think. Had I asked my kids’ permission before posting the (obligatory) first day of school photo? They certainly knew that I was doing it, and understood that, from time to time, I liked to provide updates on what they were up to, especially for family members and friends that we didn’t see on a regular basis. But did they realize that they had a choice in whether or not I posted their likeness?

... would the 16-year-old version of my daughter welcome the decision made by her eight-year-old self?

Certainly when the kids were young I posted photos of them without thinking — nothing embarrassing, I hope. Definitely one spirited rendition of We Are the Champions by a passionate three-year-old Queen fan. And back then I was used to making decisions on their behalf. But now that my kids are older — 10 and 13 — have I remembered to relinquish the reins of authority and ask their preferences?

I recall sometimes asking, because my daughter always enthusiastically responded yes to the postings. But — and here’s the balance between exercising parental controls and letting them voice their opinions — was this informed consent? I remember asking her permission to post at the time, she was probably eight years old. Can an eight-year-old truly understand the potential ramifications of posting these photos? My Facebook photos are visible only to friends, and my Instagram account is private. But I don’t kid myself that these photos are secure. And even if they were safe, would the 16-year-old version of my daughter welcome the decision made by her eight-year-old self? Was I creating a digital footprint she would one day blame me for?

Here's Another Mom's POV On ConsentWhy I Ask My 5-Year-Old Son For Permission Before Hugging Him — And Other Ways We Discuss Consent

I’m no longer talking about how to get a baby to eat pureed carrots; I’m delving into personal issues.

My son is more reluctant with photos. For the first time ever, I asked him to make the choice on the school forms about permission to share any photos taken of him to the school newsletter, or with the board for their publicity. I started to realize that I shouldn’t automatically check the box permitting sharing, and that this should be a decision made by my kids, with me there for a consult. And, in the case of social media, I have realized that although my intentions were good — to share photos of my kids with friends and family, to communicate the neat preferences and hobbies that make them unique, and fill me with so much pride — it’s not for me to make that decision unilaterally.

This reflection has spilled over into my writing. As someone who shares her thoughts, questions and failures on parenting publicly, of course my kids and their experiences come up often. Even that content is carefully considered, with many story ideas discarded as being too personal. And so yes, I have shared experiences in this forum. I do it because one of the mandates of this column is to help other parents who are going through similar tricky or questioning times to realize that they are not alone.

I’m sure the frequency of my Facebook posts will decrease as I make myself stop and consider what I’m posting, and why.

This type of sharing is key for some parents who aren’t sure if they are the only ones feeling a certain way, or grappling with a specific issue. Realizing that other people have faced relatable challenges is a relief. It’s one of the reasons that parent and baby groups can be so crucial, especially when the kids are young. It’s a reason why online parenting forums are such a lifeline: you are thrilled to find that you are not alone in your doubt, fears and questions. Realizing that other people have experienced the highs and lows, and asked the same questions, is a relief. That is why I share what I do in personal essay form.

But — the kids are getting older. I’m no longer talking about how to get a baby to eat pureed carrots; I’m delving into personal issues. My kids care more now about what I write. They have veto power. And while I do believe it’s important for us — parents, society, kids — to be more honest and embrace the good and the bad, and not just showcase the Pinterest-worthy moments, I won’t be able to share everything I want to.

Here's Another Post By JaniceCan My Son Really Be Anxious About Aging At Age 12?

I’m still waiting on my son’s answer about if he’s willing to have photos taken of him at school shared through their communication channels. If he declines, that’s fine. I’m trying to follow his lead now and to ask permission before I post any photos. I’m sure the frequency of my Facebook posts will decrease as I make myself stop and consider what I’m posting, and why. The topics I write about will undoubtedly change. My daughter may still be fine with the photos — she’s certainly keen to one day have her own accounts. But I will consider permission.

I am pondering consent, and how to make that informed social media consent. And I’m realizing that whether via social media or blog posts, eventually my source of content and ideas — the kids’ exploits and experiences — will get diverted. That I will quietly put down my pen, and turn off my laptop. I might take a deep breath. And then begin the next adventure.

This article was posted with permission.

Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a writer who moved from the big city to Orangeville in 2014 and never looked back, claiming a need to take the scenic route through life. Her blended family includes five kids, a wildly overgrown garden and a whole lot of coffee. Janice cherishes creative writing as a treat, right up there with overstuffed tacos, '80s mixed tapes and walks on beaches scattered with dunes. 

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