How to share photos of my child
June 30, 2016 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out how to share photos of my child with friends and relatives. I have a vague sense that posting photos to Facebook is a privacy violation, but I'll admit I don't exactly understand how. And I don't have a better idea. Do you?

To be clear, I'm not talking about anything like naked bath photos or poop stories or anything embarrassing like that. I would understand why THOSE would be privacy and/or safety violations. And I'm careful about posting photos that identify our house, and I post vacation photos after we've returned. I can see why those could be safety concerns.

But beyond that, I have a vague sense that I should not post anything, but I don't understand why. I saw that French police have warned parents about this and read a few of the top Google hits on this question, but I'm not getting it.

And meanwhile, I see many people I respect posting photos of their children and celebrating their family life together. It feels like a loss to not share that with our extended family and friends. I get comments sometimes about how I should post more photos. Should I NEVER share photos, or just be fairly minimal in what I share? If I've already shared a few baby photos, is the horse already out of the barn?

I'd love any insight you can share and any thoughtful articles you can point me toward.

And if I don't share photos on Facebook, is there a better approach than just periodically sending my relatives a few photos and updates by email?
posted by slidell to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe a Shared Album on Google Photos?
posted by o0dano0o at 11:50 AM on June 30, 2016

Privacy violation of whom? Your child? Because they presumably have not consented to have you email the photos either, so that's not somehow different from posting them on facebook. If you just want it (slightly) more secure, you can: create a new facebook account that you only use for kid photos; friend only the relatives; create a closed group of only those relatives that you post the photos to; disable (I think this is still possible? fb keeps changing their filtering/sharing options) the ability of those group members to share or tag the photos.

You can't, though, technically keep them from e.g. downloading and then re-uploading those photos so that they can post them wherever. But that's also true of emailing the photos.
posted by rtha at 12:03 PM on June 30, 2016

My wife and the most of the other mothers in our local baby boom have been using Tiny Beans to share pictures and videos of their children with friends and relatives. It's a huge hit with us. It's got a decent user experience, putting thumbnails of all new content on a monthly calendar. Parents grant different levels of access to friends and families. Some can only view, some can view and comment, some can view, comment and edit. Access is denied to anyone not specifically granted it by the parents.
posted by bluejayway at 12:17 PM on June 30, 2016

Because they presumably have not consented to have you email the photos either, so that's not somehow different from posting them on facebook.

I think it is substantially different. Facebook is a permanently searchable public forum. Email is not. I am VERY glad that (for the most part) the only embarrassing pictures of me online are the ones I decided to post myself. Even when pictures aren't obviously embarrassing, I shudder at the thought of all of my baby and childhood photos being available at any time to anyone armed with only my name and a search engine.

This is why I am extremely selective about posting photos of my own kids on facebook or other public sites (I think there are about five in total that I have posted since my eldest was born six years ago).

I know that there are privacy controls in Facebook that can let you limit who can see the pictures, but I don't really trust them in terms of keeping the picture private permanently. Likewise, I know that unencrypted email is not perfectly secure either. But I still see a world of difference between the two when it comes to protecting your child's future privacy.

As to actual solutions, my family uses Slack for this, and it has been wonderful.
posted by 256 at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2016 [9 favorites]

Oh, and also, we use Shutterfly to make calendars every year with all our favourite pictures of the kids from the previous year (often cramming as many as 50 into a single calendar). We also can customize the calendars with all the relevant birthdays and whatnot in the family already marked with cute little photo thumbnails. We give out these calendars to relatives at Christmas, and they are very well received (or at least people politely pretend to like getting them). I think it's really nice to solve the dearth of photo sharing that we do online with a big physical influx once a year.
posted by 256 at 12:25 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

> Facebook is a permanently searchable public forum. Email is not.

I do have my fb set to not be findable by e.g. google search, and if you set up a fake account and set it like that, then that should (should being the operative there) take care of that part. The larger issue really is what exactly you are concerned about, and what ways those things can be taken care of (mostly) via technical means vs social means. If any relatives in receipt of emailed photos wants to post them to their fb/flickr/etc. account, the fact that you emailed them instead of posting them to a group [site] doesn't make a difference in terms of future kid's potential embarrassment. Don't feel safer or less in violation of anyone's privacy just because you use a site (or email) that is not facebook, because you're not the only link in the chain.
posted by rtha at 12:26 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

The problem with other sites is that no one wants to go to them. I've seen a lot of people post photos of their kids on Fb but refer to them by their initials.
posted by k8t at 12:27 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Assume anything you post on Facebook is 100% public. Facebook's privacy settings have been ever shifting and tough to understand. People have been upset with Facebook because it implies some level of privacy through the use of friends, groups etc. Facebook has in the past have made private things public, and they also do things like track your non-Facebook web browsing activity and track your phone's location in Facebook Messenger. Some people find this intrusive. However, neither of those issues has to do with posting photos.

It's theoretically possible to post photos on Facebook and keep them private, but chances are you'll have to pay very close attention to Facebook's privacy changes and your account's privacy settings to actually keep them private. So again, if you post photos to Facebook, assume everyone on the Internet can see them and likely find them using a search engine. If you want something other than that, use another service. I don't have an immediate suggestion there, but maybe other folks can help with that.
posted by cnc at 12:31 PM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Most of my extended family puts pictures of kids and everyone on Facebook. My daughter's spouse has a Wordpress blog just to show of the grandchildren. If you are worried at all, the ability to share with specific people via Google Photos or Google+ seems like a good way to go, but I would not be amazed if those pics eventually are open to the world, but it takes some management.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:32 PM on June 30, 2016

We post pictures of our kids on Facebook and share them with friends, me more than my husband. I plan on asking permission from the kids once they get a bit older and give them some agency in making decisions, and respecting their choices. I try to share only things that are cute or funny, not embarrassing, and spread out the kid-related posts to once a week max.

Additionally, we upload our camera roll to a Dropbox account, and share the permissions with the grandparents. Every picture gets automatically uploaded when I open Dropbox on my phone. This means that if there are any pictures that I don't want to share, I have to immediately delete them after they're uploaded. It's also a nice cloud-based backup of our photos in case the phones get fritzed.
posted by Liesl at 12:45 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

My approach is to share photos on an apple PhotoStream, where the only people that can view the pictures are people who I've invited. But that assumed your extended family has bought into apple products.
posted by leahwrenn at 12:52 PM on June 30, 2016

I think the main problem with Facebook is you often end up sharing photos indiscriminately: you friend random people you talked to once at a party, your next-door neighbor when you were 8, and people you once went to middle school with, and then when you post pictures of your kid (that you mostly want to share with your good friends and your family) you end up sharing those pictures with all those random people too. I think the way to deal with this problem is to make lists on Facebook. Lists are basically a way to sort your friends; they allow you to share things with certain groups of people on Facebook but not with everyone.

To create a new list: go to your newsfeed page, hover over the word "Friends" in your left sidebar, or hover over any of the groups Facebook has already made for you. The word "More" will pop up next to the word "Friends." Click on that. That gets you to a page where you can create a new list. I have two important lists: Acquaintances and Good Friends. Acquaintances are people I don't mind being Facebook friends with but who I haven't actually talked to in years; Good Friends are the people who are my friends in real life and family I'm close to. For your question, you could make a list of people you definitely want to share kid pictures with and name it "Kids" (for example).

Once you've created a list, go to your Facebook page (i.e not the newsfeed page) and look at the text box where you post things. Below the box, you can choose who to share your post with. Now that you've made a list, i.e. Kids, you can choose that list whenever you post pictures of your kids and you'll only be sharing with those people. Personally, I'm pretty private, so my default setting is: "friends except for Acquaintances." I did that by selecting the custom option in that drop-down list and then typing in Acquaintances into the "Don't share with" box. When I post photos, I share them with my Good Friends list or with "friends except Acquaintances."

I think it's also worth it to get into your privacy settings and make sure your profile is not open to everyone, and to go in and check the settings every 6 months or so, just because Facebook are bastards like that.
posted by colfax at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2016

What an interesting question. It's actually one that my SO and I talk about a lot.

I agree with cnc and 256. I don't have children, but personally I'd be mortified if anyone posted pictures of me when I was a child on a publicly accessible website. I'm at an age where I remember life way before the Internet, but I did have an incident were a relative watched a video of me that I did not want seen, and it's something I'll never forget. I can't imagine growing up with the Internet and having the decision about my privacy made for me, with pictures of me throughout my formative years being made public to "anyone armed with a search engine." I'd be horrified as an adult because I believe privacy is a right. I believe that adults have a right to be offline if that's what they choose, but these days that decision is made for them before they're old enough to decide for themselves. I think that's very unfortunate. I see adults as the gatekeepers of their kids' privacy, and I'm often surprised at the level of sharing that happens with people and their children online. No judgment; it's just not for me. But then again, I'm a very private person and I realize that my views are not the norm. I don't have a Facebook account and I don't post on any social media outside of anonymous forums. If I had a child, I wouldn't post pictures of them on social media, period. I might find a site that's sole purpose is picture sharing with encryption and a password, and give the password out to friends and family, but that would be a stretch. USPS and real pictures still exist, and there's something really great about a physical picture.

To answer your question of "should I never share photos, or just be selective.." I'd say that's up to you and your family. While I think it's overkill to never share photos online, I'd be extremely selective about it. A cute cheesy smile over a 5th birthday cake is a lot different than a Youtube video of bathtime, as you say in your post. It sounds like from your post, you're aware of the difference and you take it seriously. I think it's become a socially accepted norm that you're questioning, and my response would be to do what you feel is right for your family - regardless of what everyone else does.

I admire your thoughtfulness in your child's privacy and how they will feel about it as they grow up. It's possible that the concept of privacy is changing for children born after Facebook, so maybe the debate doesn't matter. "Fish don't know the water in which they swim" as they say. As for me, I'd err on the side of caution that it will matter for my child someday, and act accordingly.
posted by onecircleaday at 1:05 PM on June 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

I used to put pictures from my life, including family members and friends, on the internet quite a bit. I used to publish writing that contained a lot of detail about my life and experiences. I still share things that can be tied to real-life people, sometimes, and I still write about my life, but I think about it a lot harder now, and very often I deliberately withhold things I'd like to share because increasingly it seems like a violation of trust to submit other people to the gaze and memory of the network, and a risk to submit myself.

Facebook is terrible for your privacy, but the big-picture problem isn't really Facebook as such. It's networked computers, databases, massive storage of files - it's the whole architecture of the system. You should assume that everything you share with a networked system will be remembered, analyzed, and correlated with everything else you share. Once you've published something, you have effectively (and permanently) ceded control over its use and interpretation. You should also understand that current levels of technology permit governments, companies, advertisers, etc., to extract a pretty staggering amount of information from the things you publish, and that the technology is only going to improve with time, allowing ever more knowledge to be extracted from what you publish now, which you should assume will never under any circumstances be deleted (even if you've been told that it's been deleted).

Practically speaking, there may not be a whole lot you can do about much of this, and I am continually made aware that even a moderate amount of resistance has pretty high social costs. It's obvious that I know fewer people, participate in fewer activities, and have reduced economic opportunities because I'm not on Facebook - but the real kicker is that I'm dramatically less in touch with my family. That'd be an even harder choice if I had kids, because I'd want their grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc., to see them grow up. I think you kind of have to make your own choices about this.

And if I don't share photos on Facebook, is there a better approach than just periodically sending my relatives a few photos and updates by email?

Maybe mail a USB stick now and then?

tl;dr: Paranoia is justified, in a lot of ways, but you probably gotta make your own decisions about the cost of paying attention to it.
posted by brennen at 1:41 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Meh, I personally think it's largely about a value judgement on your part. As you can see from above comments, some people think this is a huge privacy issue for their kids. I don't have kids yet, but plan to post photos of my kids and just don't think it's a huge deal. I guess I figure I'll impart my values to them and some cute photos online are not a big deal to me. :) I also post plenty of photos of my friends/family members' kids, although of course I ask them first if they mind -- so far, I have not had anyone who has asked me not to post, so I think this is partly maybe a social group thing. If your friends/family group is really locked down, they may find you to be an oversharer if you post a lot; if they're freewheeling photo posters like me and my friends, they may find you overly neurotic/controlling if you try to lock down photos of your kids. (And note that by really trying to prohibit any photos of your kids online, you're also asking your friends and family members not to post pictures of the family reunion/Christmas/trip to the zoo/whatever -- I do ask before posting and would of course do whatever parents asked of me because it's their kids, but some people might not think to do that. Feels like a lot of work to me!)

If you're looking for something other than Facebook, a relative of mine uses Notabli, and it has worked for everyone but one very techno-phobic relative (who gets physical photos mailed).
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:20 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

If your child's co-parent hates the idea of social media then it is an absolute no. It's not worth the fight. Otherwise, just go ahead and do it. There are so many posted now that it isn't anything that would make your child stand out.

You can keep your friends' list private and selective on facebook, and keep your settings to friends only.
posted by myselfasme at 2:56 PM on June 30, 2016

My husband is in IT and is not a fan of social media. But he also understands that he is an outlier there. His request has been that I ask first, and do so sparingly. For example if I take 10 pictures and share 1 on Facebook, that's fine because we will still have nine private ones. Also, people like his sister and parents post things and he can't control that.

One of the kids is old enough now to know what Facebook is and if we take a fun picture of him, he'll ask if we are going to post it and sometimes, he'll suggest we do. Now that he is old enough to be aware, I never post anything of him without asking. The baby, I'll post what I want but be sparing. Plus I don't think even my family wants to see a hundred pictures a day of my kid :-)
posted by JoannaC at 3:14 PM on June 30, 2016

I post "nice" baby photos on facebook. They're all in the same album (easily selected on upload, even from mobile) and that's only viewable by a whitelist of friends/family. Sometimes people tag me in photos they've taken of the baby but I don't approve those and it's no big deal to me that they technically exist because we were indeed in a public space and I can't stop random people from taking photos so why should I try to restrict my friends. I do refrain from using her name online and instead substitute her first initial, which is unique in our family, or a generic nickname. Having community interaction from posting the photos has been a real boon to my mental health, and if I required folks to use a different platform, much less enter a password, to see the photos, I wouldn't get that. If the baby someday wants the photos removed, I'll do it, no problem. I understand that the Internet is forever and all but again, let's be realistic. None of us can completely control our privacy, and I have no particular reason to think that the cub will ever be a celebrity or what have you where other people might actually care about her baby photos some day. Anyway, the most anyone will be able to say about the photos, even if they somehow had full access, is that they're probably of her. (My partner doesn't use any social media and as far as I know only ever texts/e-mails photos.)

I think the question of embarrassing/personal photos/videos should be considered separately. I've never shared anything I would have cringed to see of myself as a child. I remember too well an unflattering shot my grandmother loved and displayed prominently, and my childhood efforts to effectively conceal the photo without getting caught -- and then if she thought it was lost, she'd just go and get another print from the negative anyway!
posted by teremala at 3:23 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

There has never been a photo of my 7 month old kid posted on facebook. This is at my husbands request due to privacy concerns and Facebook's ever changing settings and terms of use. I can't say I disagree. For sharing photos, we use a shared Dropbox folder. Very easy for the grandparents to use and show off the photos on their iPads.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 11:18 PM on June 30, 2016

Great solutions above. But I will offer a different perspective. I want my children to grow up in a large extended family, to travel the world, to meet amazing people, to learn amazing things. I met my husband on a MUSH in the early 90s, I met my best friend the same way, I co-ran a big moms group when my oldest was a baby which provided me with community information including the Montessori which has nurtured and loved them, and some of the friends I made there have loved me and my child, cleaned my house when I was on bedrest, watched my kids when my safe as given a 10% chance of survival.

I am thoughtful about what I post, but my network is on Facebook and it is a great joy to me that I see their kids, hear about their crafts, celebrate their piano exams, etc. To me that is less of a concern than whether someone can look up their 4th birthday pictures.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:19 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Does your extended family network share the same technology platform? That makes a big difference.

For example, my extended family members (spread over two continents) mostly use Apple products, and we maintain a shared photostream where the kid photos go. Even the technology-wary grandparents have taken to iPads so that they can look at grandkid photos.

Disadvantage: closed ecosystem. For example, my sister-in-law can look at these photos, but my brother is out of luck with his Android phone.

Massive advantage: it is private, specifically shared with selected people, and it puts up notifications so that people can keep up with the photos with minimal effort. (I know Google provides a similar solution in the Android ecosystem as well.)

For the rest of our extended network, we post a (much smaller) subset of photos on Facebook (alas). I personally hate the way Facebook has pushed the limits on privacy at every opportunity, but that's where everyone else is.

If you wanted to go full tech geek, you could start your own blog - we had one, but it's an annoyance to impose another task on family members that requires them to make a specific effort. And it isn't private without password protection, which will never work with a non-tech-savvy audience.

Also, in my opinion, email is a non-starter. You'll be clogging up everyone's mailbox with many MBs of photos regularly, some of it will get lost / bounce / be marked as spam, and you have no control over where those photos go afterwards anyway.

So that's our solution: a private photostream for close family, a selected subset of photos on Facebook for everyone else. Your kids are going to grow up with a very (very!) different concept of privacy compared to you.
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:10 PM on July 1, 2016

Hi! Sorry for the slow follow up. I really appreciate all these answers. To me, it brings home that there isn't one right answer, that how families deal with this varies, and is fairly personal and unique. I think we'll share the occasional photo on FB and look into a few of the technological suggestions for sharing more with selected people. Thanks for helping me get some clarity on this.
posted by slidell at 11:26 AM on July 6, 2016

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