The Child’s Permission

The Child’s Permission

After conducting a brief online survey I discovered a surprising result, that asking a child for permission before posting a picture of them online does not appear to be “a thing”.

Only one out of the twenty respondents claimed they asked permission from the child, with half admitting they didn't even ask the parent’s of the children. As well as the very real dangers related to child safety through actions such as publishing school uniforms, home address or after school clubs it also important to put the child's opinion first and educate them through that process about what is and isn't okay to post online.

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It is not out of the question that, if you post every moment of their lives to a public space, they will grow up thinking that a lack of privacy is the norm.

What was just as surprising was the lack of advice or direction available surrounding this aspect of the subject. There is plenty from the NSPCC, in their partnership with mobile provide O2, on how to keep your child safe online and everyone agrees that involving the child in this process is important. However, this all stops short of enabling the child to be the gatekeeper of their own privacy.

Looking specifically at the NSPCC guidelines, they do have ‘asking permission’ as an example in their Family Online Agreement template. This is a simple table for a family to put in place with their children in order to kick start the discussion. However, they do not make it clear what laws or policies are in place to cover who has the right to post content of minors, or any guidance on how to have that conversation with the child.


The Rules

So what are the rules, at least in the UK, for posting content of children?

-    Facebook’s rules say that if your child is under 13 you have a right to ask for the removal of their images, for children over 13 they need to submit the request themselves. They do not specify any limitations on uploading the content in the first place, bar it’s rules on explicit content.

-    In the UK you need to have parental consent to use a photo of a child for promotional purposes. If posting that image to Facebook, the company can then use those photos in any way they like, including for promotional purposes, and you hand that consent over to them as soon as you upload the image.

In short, it comes down to parental consent for children under the age of 13, otherwise you need the child’s consent. This still raises the question of whether it is right or not to post pictures of your own child without their consent, which appears to be left to the discretion of each parent, at least in the eyes of the law.


What can you do?

There are many examples out there of how to handle this issue. These range from abstaining from posting content altogether through to micro-managing every privacy setting.

 - No Content: The not-so easy option to manage yourself with family and friends expecting updates and cute photos. It is also worth keeping an eye on what others are posting and make it clear to your family & social group that you’d rather not have that content shared.

 - Private Content: Use the tools available to you and learn how to make the most of their settings. iCloud Sharing or Facebook scrap book are just two examples of how to limit who sees which photos. The latter involves telling Facebook who your child is and then tagging them in any photos you add.

 - Dedicated Account: As mentioned in my previous article “How Not To Let 'Black Mirror' Happen" this is an increasingly popular option. You set up a private account dedicated to the child which you can hand over to them at any stage, they will then have the tools to review and remove anything that they are not happy with.

 - Trust your privacy settings: This way you can post what you like but make sure your profile settings are secure and regularly reviewed. Only 10% of the respondents to my survey were confident they had these settings configured correctly.

With all of these options it is still reliant on the user having permission before posting, either from the parent or the child.

I’d personally recommend creating a private account for the child and maintaining its custody until they are able to take it on themselves. This could violate the terms & conditions of some social media services so choose your platform carefully.

As with everything that you introduce to your child, starting with an open conversation sounds like a good first step. However, not having children of my own, I appreciate that this could be a difficult habit to break, but i feel like it is an important one.

Jonathan Trickey

Quince Solutions ltd


For guidance on how to keep your child safe visit the following sites and keep an eye out for my How to Guide on starting the conversation later this summer.

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