The Tantrum: Should You Put Your Kids’ Photos on the Internet?

April 19th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  13 Comments

(This is the Tantrum, in which Dadwagon’s writers debate one question over the course of a week. For previous Tantrums, click here.)

Is this your kid's face on Newt Gingrich's body?

Is this your kid's face on Newt Gingrich's body? No, it's not.

Don’t freak out! The disgusting and disturbing photo you see to the right is not your child’s face Photoshopped onto Newt Gingrich’s body. It’s some other parent’s kid. So relax. Because this frightening scenario didn’t happen to you.

But it could! And it could be worse, right? Certainly: It could be Harry Reid’s face on your daughter’s body.

What it’s not likely to be, however, is truly pornographic. Nor is a stalker likely to find the pictures you took of your kids, triangulate their whereabouts based on Facebook and Foursquare postings, and then move in for the kill. In fact, putting your kids’ photos on the Internet is not dangerous—just as the New York Times reported last fall:

“Research shows that there is virtually no risk of pedophiles coming to get kids because they found them online,” said Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the Family Online Safety Institute. While the debate makes this crime seem common, he said, all the talk is really just “techno-panic.”

And yet, it’s still a terrifying prospect, isn’t it? Just knowing that it’s techno-panic doesn’t erase the fear that something awful might possibly one day  happen. We may be rational people, but when kids are involved, reason goes out the window.

All I can do is speak from personal experience, having put images and video of my daughter, Sasha, in one of the most visible places in the world: the New York Times. You can see her at restaurants in Venice, getting a bath in a hotel room, and playing on the swings in San Francisco. Her actual name is there, and it’s not too hard to find out where we live. Has anything unpleasant happened as a result of this? Nope. Sasha’s never been recognized on the street, or anywhere else.

I realize this may sound like a call to the crazies to come get us, but honestly, the crazies have better, more efficient, and more insidious ways of getting to our kids, like finding them in chat rooms (although I’m skeptical of the stats on that) or, I don’t know, becoming Catholic priests. Child pornographers tend to use actual children in their crimes, not random, poorly PhotoShopped images. (If the latter were the case, it would almost be a victimless crime—although seriously creepy and probably still illegal.) And although we freak out over stranger danger, 87 percent of the almost 900,000 American children abused (in one way or another) in 2004 suffered at the hand of one or both parents, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, and three-quarters of sexually assaulted teens were victims of people they knew well.

So, should you post your kids’ pictures on Facebook, Flickr and wherever else? If all you’re worried about is safety, then go for it. It won’t endanger your child. (There may, of course, be a moral or cultural argument against putting kids’ pictures online, but I’ll leave it to another ‘wagoneer to go in that direction.)

newtbathOf course, if you’re terrified of running into a picture like this one to the right, then by all means keep the photos on the fridge, where they belong. Just remember to keep Uncle Al, Sally the teenage babysitter, the Fresh Direct delivery guys, and probably every member of your immediate family—including yourself—out of the kitchen. Can’t be too careful, you know.


  1. Jason says:

    April 19th, 2010at 5:08 pm(#)

    A while back, a fellow dadblogger (Dutch, he of Sweet Juniper fame) had a pic of his kid lifted off of his Flickr page without his permission and put to nefarious use – as the illustrating photo for a story on another parenting website (won’t name names, but it rhymes with “Rabble”. I’d be more concerned about that sort of thing happening.

    Consequently, with your permission, I’d like to use that second picture of Newt Gingrich for every future post I write, regardless of the topic.

  2. Aran says:

    April 19th, 2010at 5:28 pm(#)

    Safety isn’t really the concern for me. I mostly don’t feel comfortable publicly posting photos of another person who has no ability to tell me whether or not he wants his pictures shared with the public.

    I have posted thousands of photos of my son in a private area of Flickr that only my family is able to access. When I post photos for “friends only” on Facebook, I delete them after a couple of months.

  3. Matt says:

    April 19th, 2010at 5:30 pm(#)

    @Aran: Absolutely. That’s what I meant by a moral or philosophical argument, and I totally get what you’re saying. To each his own, obviously, but the counterargument would be: Don’t we often do all kinds of things to and with our kids without their explicit permission? How is this different?

  4. Jack says:

    April 19th, 2010at 6:57 pm(#)

    There is a distinct difference between posting the pix on a forum that anyone can visit and a “private” website.

  5. Matt says:

    April 19th, 2010at 7:15 pm(#)

    @Jason: Of course you can use that photo, as long as you credit it properly: “Photo-illustrationn by Todd Palin for”

    @Jack: Different how? Either way, no one’s going to come after your kid.

  6. Mike Johnson says:

    April 20th, 2010at 12:53 am(#)

    Hadn’t seen these stats and the quote from Stephen Balkam. Good info, thanks for posting. Folks should definitely not be led by false fears. At the same time though, parents should sometimes be more choosy on the amount of pics they post of their kids on social networks simply because no wants to see them all ;)…I’m certainly guilty of over-posting.


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