Telling my Facebook-obsessed family I don’t want photos of my kid online

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Photo by possiede -- Remixed under CC BY 2.0
Photo by possiede — Remixed under CC BY 2.0
As I consider having a kid, one thing I feel very strongly about is not blasting photos of them all over social media. I want my child to first be old enough to choose which photos land on the internet — if any. And by “old enough,” I mean able to make an informed choice as to what goes on the internet — knowing that once its up, it is very hard to undo because it contributes to their social image.

However, my husband’s sibling has photos of their kid ALL OVER THE INTERNET. It seems like everything that kid has ever done has wound up in on online post, in one form or another. Now I feel as though there has been a precedence set by the family, regarding expectations of what ends up online.

Preserving my future child’s privacy and right to choose is something I feel strongly about. But, I don’t even think something like that crosses my share-everything-on-Facebook family members’ minds.

Any advice on how, or when, to broach this subject? I don’t want to become that mom who bites anyone’s head off who posts a photo of my kid on the internet. But I also want people to think before they post. -Katy

What is your best advice for telling social media-obsessed family and friends that you aren’t posting any photos of your kid online?

Comments on Telling my Facebook-obsessed family I don’t want photos of my kid online

  1. When Daughter was born we announced it on Facebook with a photo where you could see her but not her face. And in our post we wrote : we’re working to protect her privacy and keep her online footprint small. If you’d like to see photos, email us! Then we created a Google folder for baby pics and videos and we shared it with all our family. It works great : instant online backup of precious baby pics, all the images devoted aunties / grandparents etc could ask for, privacy for the daughter, and no endless clogging up of child free friends’ timelines. No one complained or even asked any questions.

  2. I just asked and everyone said ok. I let them know you could always reach out to myself or my husband. We also started a shared album on our iPhones that keeps things more private and is like our own social media. I did make sure to remind those mega posters and at parties I kindly ask the host. Also if it’s a group shot and she’s around I try and be more easy about it.

  3. Definitely address it early. We texted photos of brand new baby to family and had a family member post our joyous news on Facebook before we did 🙁 I had an order of people to contact that I was slowly working through from my hospital bed and didn’t realize what had happened for a few hours, at which point it was too late to really ask for the post to be taken down. We figured had other things to worry about, and obviously everyone in several generations is excited about this first (great) grandchild which we’ve produced, but the same relative posted a number of other photos which has been texted to family only and two weeks into the kid’s life I finally made the bandwidth (and the protective parental attitude to call out someone of an older generation) to specifically ask “please let me know before you post photos of me or my child” – which got me an apology, removal of the most recent posting, and hopefully is the end of it – kid has yet to finish three weeks on the outside so there may be some reminders required in the future.

    The interesting thing was that it came up in conversation with other family and someone else said “don’t text that to so-and-so, the Facebook guru” and I realized I wasn’t the only one who had been put out. So maybe look for allies in your family who will have your back and can help you address any particular person who might be likely to breach your preferred privacy. “Mom, can you tell Aunt May that this is really important to me?”

    And good luck! It seems harder and harder these days to live without a digital footprint.

    • Oh man, this happened to us, too, when our first son was born. I had an extremely long labor, so family-types were waiting a couple of days on the news that he was actually born. Most of my aunts and cousins are on Facebook, but my mom is not and so when she texted a certain family member she had no idea that this person is an over-sharer on Facebook. Yeah, certain family member totally posted about it before we could and linked our names so that all our people could see the posting. Now, with our second son on the way any day, we know better! When we send out the text announcing his birth, we will definitely be more specific in asking for a social media ban, at least until we can announce it ourselves!

      • A little tip that might help, I have my Facebook settings so that I have to approve before anyone’s posts tagging me are released on my wall to my network… so it means I have a tiny bit of control over what my friends see. Might help, might not

  4. We also made the decision to post no baby photos to social media. Our situation is a bit different- we are fostering, and the rules about social media posts are so undefined and different depending on who you ask, we decided no photos at all to protect our foster childs privacy. What’s helped a lot for excited family is telling them “You can text or email the photos to whomever you want, just don’t put them on the internet”. I also have a daily text that goes out to grandparents and a few other people who wanted to be included, so they still get to see tons of photos and progress.

    • My friend adopted her foster daughter. She never posted pictures of her daughter until she was legally adopted. At one point she posted on FB explaining the situation and asking that people not post pictures of her daughter that they take. Her daughter had been to a birthday party a few days earlier and some of the parents had shared a whole bunch of pictures that included her daughter. She asked each of them directly to remove the pictures.

  5. I have nothing to add, but I highly respect your decision. I honestly wish fewer parents would post naked baby photos to their Facebook wall…not because *I* don’t want to see them, but because I doubt that child will appreciate finding out once they’re older.

  6. I don’t know how well this would go over, but maybe go with a “Future FBI Agent” thing. Tell people that too many pictures of your baby online will hurt her chances of being a covert operative one day, and you want to leave all job opportunities on the table for her.

  7. We post a limited number of photos of our son on social media. We did the monthly photos for his first year and since then about 3 photos in 4 months (a selfie with his dad wearing matching hats, him a group family photo, and a shot of him at the playground).

    When he was born, we created a shutterfly share site which is accessible by invitation only. We posted on facebook early that we were trying to limit the number of photos on social media and if anyone wanted to see lots of pictures of him, to pm us their e-mail address and we would send them an invitation to the site. I really like it because it helps me keep pictures organized and our out of town relatives like seeing weekly photos and updates.

  8. I’m a bit of a Facebook privacy nerd, I know a fair bit about their options and I actually think they’re really good. (I’m a big fan of lists, which allow you to share something only with specific people on your friends list.) As a result I get a bit irritated when I encounter people who seem to think the only possible option is to share everything publicly – so literally anyone on the internet can see it, and who share absolutely everything anyway.

    Unfortunately a lot of my friends and family are friends with that sort of people so as a result I get to see a lot of stuff I probably shouldn’t. (In case you’re not aware if a post is public and someone likes it or comments on it all their friends will see it in their news feed, and can then like it, comment on it, share it, or even save it to their computer and share it elsewhere without you knowing.)

    However this means I’ve discovered the best way to make them re-think seems to be a total stranger commenting on their posts. The first time it was an accident (I wasn’t fully paying attention and thought it was my friends photo), since then I have to admit I have sometimes deliberately left passive aggressive comments on things I don’t think they intended me to see. Nothing mean, always something like “Wow I love this, your kids are so cute” or “So sorry to hear about your accident, compared to yesterdays photo the scar seems to be healing well”.

    But it seems to get the point across.

    • Hahaha I am just like you, in these regards! Most people learn by example though. It cracks me up that there are so many people out there who do no cleanup or monitoring of their online presence, and are shocked when strangers are seeing their business. Instead of asking “Who IS this person commenting on my page??” they should be asking “Why don’t I have privacy settings in place?”

      Do they even Google themselves? I have, and once found that things I posted on an organization’s FB page were automatically posted to their website, where it is *not* deletable. I always check for the “public” globe now on posts where I’m inclined to comment. Then I think: “Do I want this to be a forever comment that comes up when my future employer Googles me?” If the answer is no, I control myself (which is often tough!).

      Further, I regularly go through my FB Activity Log and delete almost everything I’ve said anyway (on my page, and others, which bugs people, but too bad). You never know when someone will change their privacy settings to make an ex jealous or something, and thus expose things you thought were limited access.

      I’m with the OP though – I would never put pics of my child online, but purely out of fear of predators. Predators are most often someone we know, after all…In terms of how to approach it, I’d make a social media post (public so moms at parties I wasn’t “friends” with could potentially see it) about not wanting photos of my child online, and I would simply keep a watchful eye and if I saw anything go up, ask them to take it down, same as I would if someone tagged me in a photo where I had a double chin and was swigging a beer. It’s okay to have these requests. If someone has a problem with it, that’s their own to deal with.

  9. My husband is VERY against posting stuff on social media and there was a first battle with my family during pregnancy as my mom posted a picture of me (big belly) and her and mentioned my son (+name) coming soon. The only good that came out of this was that everyone was very aware of not posting the baby’s pics online. Once in a while well meaning acquaintances post a pic they took online and I move swiftly to delete the post and inform the person about our stance, but overall with time it becomes easier.

  10. I thought we’d have a problem because my Bother and Sister In Law have thousands of pictures of their kids on Facebook. We let them know very clearly that we weren’t’ doing it and everyone has respected our decision so far. The grandparents were mostly worried they wouldn’t see as many pictures if they weren’t posted on Facebook so we set up a private flickr album and gave the few people we trust access. The grandparents can show off pics to their friends on their phones the same way they might have pulled out an actual picture 10 years ago and everyone is happy so far.

    Also familiarize yourself with FB’s policy – if someone else posts a picture of your child and they’re under 13 you can request it be removed. I haven’t had to do it yet but I imagine each social media outlet has a similar policy.

    I think the key for us was telling everyone pretty early in the pregnancy and answering their questions about why we were doing it. We were also able to point to an example of a friend everyone knows who had a photo of her daughter stolen and used in an advertisement without them knowing.

  11. I do not allow my friends and family to put up photos of my child. I think the earlier you alert them to your expectations, the better. Just communicate clearly and define your boundaries while stressing that it’s for the privacy and respect to the child. If all else fails, bring up paedophiles (that worked for my extended Greek family).

    But then again, I don’t use Facebook . They already respect that I’m a weirdo 😉

    Good Luck!

  12. Just wanted to point out, in America it’s actually illegal to publish or distribute photos of children without their parents’ or guardians’ permission.

    Unfortunately family can believe they have your tacit permission, so the best solution, as already stated, is to set the record straight very early on.

      • It falls under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”) by the Federal Trade Commission, as a photograph is considered personal information. Because children under 13 are not of legal consenting age, a parent or guardian has the right to dictate whether their child’s information can be used online, regardless of who own the photograph. Professionals in the photography & entertainment businesses have used consent forms for decades, as they can be highly scrutinized especially in states such as California which give greater power to the models/singers/actors/whatever than other states which are more likely to side with agencies & business entities.

        The exception would be if the child was in a public setting & the photograph was strictly of editorial use. The First Amendment would allow it under those combined circumstances. However, state & local laws as well as requirements by schools or businesses can restrict the taking & use of such photography. The stricter rules will always apply.

        If the photograph or video in question is used in a medical facility, it is considered health information & falls under the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), which strictly regulates the use, distribution, & destruction of health information. If such a photograph were used without consent of a parent or guardian for anything other than a direct medical reason by a professional for the support of the child’s care, there would be hell. to. pay.

  13. Luckily for me I have slightly technophobic parents and in-laws that already understand. We have a private Instagram account for just us and my sister in-law which works well.

    My problem has been other parents. Especially now my eldest is school age. So many of them put up almost daily pics it’s tricky to avoid seeming judgemental. So far I have been pretty lucky again with the people I know but am aware that at some point I will have to put my foot down. I try to be flexible about group shots and the odd photo that I am comfortable with if (IF) I am consulted first.

    Trust your instincts. I first decided to keep my kids off facebook as much as possible for the same reasons as you. Now we have found out that my son may be aneurotypical (no diagnosis yet). I have no idea how he will react to social media, or how vulnerable he will online, and am even more grateful that we have been careful.

  14. As someone from the other side–someone who doesn’t see a problem with lots of photos on the internet–I thought I should mention that I 100% respect these sorts of requests. If you say no photos online of your kid–or yourself–I will absolutely comply. Why on earth wouldn’t I? Online photos are supposed to be joyful sharing; if it’s going to make you upset, I’m not going to do it. The only thing is sometimes I want to take a group shot to share online and I need to ask people not to join in if they aren’t ok with it being online. I have not found a good way to say, “Please don’t be in this photo.” Any suggestions?

    • I would go with something like, “If you’re not comfortable having this posted on [insert public forum], please feel free to stand to the side” or ask them to stand on the edges of the group so they can be cropped out on your social media posting.

    • I think declaring while everyone is getting up to assemble for a shot “let’s take a shot to be shared privately, this one will -not- be posted to social media!” Then, after a few good snaps, “Okay, and another for social media! Anyone who does -not- want to go up online, time to sit down!”

      I would just be worried about keeping the two photos separate.

      • This is what we’ve done at events organised by my work. When you announce that you want a group photo also let everyone know what it’s for so they can decide if they want to be in it or not. Sometimes it’s a bit vague (ie “We’d like to use this as a promotional shot so it will probably be published somewhere public) but the important thing is they know people will see it.

      • oh man. Having just come from a huge extended-family beach house stay and going through getting everyone together for a family photo, it was more than enough work just getting everyone present & accounted for. We actually took a bunch when we thought the most people would be there–then 2 minutes later my brother & his family pull up earlier than expected. Quick everyone, back into position! Elderly family members having trouble getting back there with walkers, children going nuts & having meltdowns sobbing “I don’t wanna take another picture!” If we had to do several photos plus another one “approved” for social media use I think we’d all just say F it.

        Even the members of our family who prefer not to share their kids’ photos online are pretty relaxed about group shots. They don’t get tagged & no one minds. I feel like that’s asking a lot to have 1 shot for social sharing & 1 for private use… geeze. I get the privacy thing but group shots that aren’t linked to the parents sure seem pretty harmless to me (extenuating circumstances like foster cases excluded).

    • I know that our annual family reunion group shot will be posted on social media. I have less of an issue with that as the focus of the picture isn’t my daughter. I assume that large group shots are fair game. But other people probably don’t think that way so I agree with other peoples comments, just say something along the lines of “I’m going to post this on [social media]” so people who don’t want to be in the picture can exclude themselves (and you can take one with everyone in it).

  15. I like what my cousin did: starting at pregnancy she requested neither photos nor child’s name be posted online. She does send out a roughly monthly email update with photos and cute anecdotes for relatives who want to see child, and prints for the relatives without tech. Occasionally a picture will go up that has child’s arm or foot in it, and she’s happy to share pictures of toys for the child (we’re crafty people), but so far she has kept her child internet-free.

  16. Let them know before the pictures are taken. Ask that people send them to you, but not share them online. If they have a problem with that, I would just ask that they not take pictures. It sounds a little harsh, but this is your kid and you get to make this decision. This very thing came up with a relative’s baby: I got a super cute picture of my husband holding her infant son and I posted it to Facebook. She sent me a pm and explained (very nicely!) why her and her hubs aren’t posting pics. I took the picture down and sent her a copy through email. NBD. She is pretty good about sending annual family photos out (we are distant relatives) so it isn’t like we don’t know what he looks like. Again, like most things, you are the parent (or future parent) you get to make the decisions on this kind of stuff.

  17. One thing that may help is having an alternative. I am mildly annoyed that my best friend choose to bar my Godson from the Internet, but my weekly pictures make up for it. Other locked digital sites my friends and family use are Marco Polo- sends video messages, and Tiny Beans. I would broach the subject durning pregnancy and even start with yourself. With posts from outings or showers. That way it’s not a shock when you say no Facebook in the Hospital room.

  18. First, I want to say I think your choice is awesome. I have a lot of friends who just spam the hell out of social media with pictures of their kids and it irritates me for many reasons.
    My husband’s family are big social media users. Not his parents, but his siblings. When we had our wedding last year we decided we didn’t want people to post any photos of it on Facebook. We wanted to control which photos of our day ended up on there, we didn’t want to wake up the next morning to 100+ tags, and we also wanted people to actually be present at the event and not watch everything through their phones. We let everyone know via their invitations and then set up a private picture sharing platform. We hoped that would satisfy the need some people have to post things while keeping it to a limited audience. We got push back from some people but when it came down to it they complied.
    So my advice would be to first lay out your expectations early. Second, create some sort of forum where people can have some access to pictures (private facebook album, private flickr album, etc). Create that forum early and perhaps use it for pregnancy photos, nursery decorating photos, etc to get people into the habit. Third, just keep an eye out and if anyone ends up posting pictures of your kid contact them and politely ask them to remove the photo. If they won’t, report them.
    Again, kudos to you for keeping your kid off Facebook and letting them make the eventual choice about what to share with the social media world!

  19. I just don’t post any photos of our baby in social media (and send them only to few relatives by e-mail or text). End of story from our side. Fortunately, our relatives are not FB (or other social media) obsessed and don’t insist on getting pictures either – we live close enough to each other to come visit frequently. I’ve seen my MIL posting pictures of her other grandchildren in social media, but it’s at least with enough privacy to not been visible to whole internet.

    Our birth announcement was simply a text with baby’s birth stats and name, that’s it. You’re not obligated to send a picture! And for those who come to visit in person and take photos, husband or any other close relative can remind that pictures are not to be posted online.

  20. I like sharing photos of my kid, BUT ONLY to the closest family. My solution was to make a closed group on Facebook, inviting only relevant people, like grandmothers and aunts, and such. I explained that they are welcome to post pictures of him, if they keep it in the closed private group. They have accepted it and I have found I like that way of handling it. 🙂

  21. I don’t know if this is an option, but carefully consider who is on your friends list, and cull as necessary. I’m very choosy about who can see my stuff online, and before my daughter was born I removed many people from my facebook, for various reasons. I also have a hard and fast rule about not friending certain people: I have my cousins, but not aunts and uncles. My spouse has his side of the family on facebook, but I do not. Not everyone agrees with this, but it’s my decision, and it gives me slightly more control over photos. We send email updates for photos, which seems to keep everyone happy.

    Printing photos on a regular basis and mailing them to older family members was also a great old-school option that kept our kid offline.

    • Culling/limited friending only works for pictures you post yourself. My MIL/FIL constantly post pictures online of my daughter. I have no clue who their friends are and their privacy settings. And even though my husband and I have requested that they stop they still do it every time they play with her. I even have a private photo sharing website so they can see pictures of her. For them it’s about showing off their granddaughter (and bragging rights) and they don’t understand the risk of posting things online.

  22. I have posted two pictures of my daughter in the 12 months she’s been alive. One with her birth announcement and one when she turned one year. We have asked that our family not post pictures but they do. One time we had just had a conversation with my FIL about not posting pictures online and he posted one anyways (and it was a horrible picture of our daughter – she looked possessed). I have consented to her picture being posted a few times (e.g., a couple big family pictures) but in those cases my daughter was not the focus of the picture. When my in-laws are playing with or watching my daughter they take tons of pictures and then post them online without asking first.

  23. We made it clear while I was still pregnant that we wouldn’t be posting pictures of our DD on Facebook. In the beginning I was so worried that people would just ignore our request, but everyone was pretty chill about it. I think it helps that I write a monthly-ish mass email and include photos. That being said, pictures of her do occasionally surface on FB and I have decided not to be a total hardass about it, especially if the photo is posted by another child’s parent (many friends have children of similar age, and I can’t police their choices if my wee one happens to end up in a photo). There is also the occasional picture of her without her face showing, which I personally am okay with. Certainly, if someone posted a picture that I thought was inappropriate in some way I would ask them to take it down. But so far it’s been okay.

  24. This is something I only recently had to think about as my child gets older and I’m not the only one who wants to take and share pictures of her. I don’t want to say, “No you can’t take photos of my baby”, but for some family members their camera roll may as well be their facebook feed.

    We’ve decided to use Cluster – a private app that’s invite-only and all members can share photos. This is great because those family members with an itchy posting finger can still get their fix of likes and comments, but its limited to whomever I approve instead of 166+ of their “friends” I’ve never met. It works on desktop, Android, and iPhone/iPad, which is a step above a shared Apple album since not everyone has an iPhone (or smartphone for that matter).

    We plan to send out an e-mail to outline the new “rules”. Hopefully it will all go smoothly.

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