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Should parents ask for kids' consent to share photos?

The 360 is a feature designed to show you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

Speed read

What’s happening: Is sharing always caring? Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, Apple Martin, thinks not. The 14-year-old recently called out her social-media-loving mom for posting her photo on Instagram. The selfie showed the pair on a ski trip, and in the comments, Apple, who was shown wearing goggles, left this reprimand: “Mom we have discussed this. You may not post anything without my consent.”

Paltrow, who has 5.3 million Instagram followers, replied: “You can’t even see your face!”

Why it’s sparking debate: The exchange between the Oscar-winning actress and her daughter captures a scenario that’s likely causing friction for millions of families: Children raised in the age of social media are coming of age and realizing that their parents for years have been sharing countless funny or awkward photos and embarrassing stories for a public audience.

While their parents’ intent may not have been to cause distress or harm, the implications of all those seemingly cute and innocent posts are wide-ranging and could follow kids into adulthood. Young people, like Apple Martin, are speaking out and drawing boundaries for consent when it comes to the revealing social media profiles of their parents.

What’s next: As children exert more agency over their images and presence online, families are grappling with how to parent in the world of social media sharing. In some extreme cases, parents have been busted for exploiting and abusing their children for internet fame. But for most kids, it’s become a rite of passage to Google themselves. “The shock of realizing that details about your life — or, in some cases, an entire narrative of it — have been shared online without your consent or knowledge has become a pivotal experience in the lives of many young teens and tweens,” noted a reporter for the Atlantic.

Governments have taken some steps to mitigate the impact of technology on kids. In the United States, children under 13 aren’t allowed to register for an online account without parental consent, according to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. A new bipartisan bill proposes extra protections for U.S. kids online, including the end of autoplaying video and other things that can be habit-forming. In the United Kingdom, proposed new regulations would include fines, blocks and prosecution for social media companies that fail to protect users.

The voices of a generation who have been surrounded by social media all their lives are now raising questions about its use and fairness. And their families are seeing the impact of this powerful technology in their lives — and trying to find ways to navigate all the issues.

Perspectives

“I quit social media after discovering what was posted about me.”

“I had just turned 13, and I thought I was just beginning my public online life, when in fact there were hundreds of pictures and stories of me that would live on the internet forever, whether I wanted it to be or not, and I didn’t have control over it. I was furious; I felt betrayed and lied to. … I confessed that I felt like my privacy was violated, because I felt like they had no right to take pictures of me or quote me on their Facebook and Twitter accounts without my permission. … It may be a dramatic move to be 13 and choose to completely opt out of social media, but my experiences with my family and the warnings and horror stories I heard at school were enough to convince me that I’d rather stay sheltered from this part of the internet for now.” — Sonia Bokhari, Fast Company

Kids should have a say in social media images of them.

“When kids are old enough to have their own social media profiles, they’re also old enough to begin thinking about what image they want to make of themselves online. This highlights the importance of consent when it comes to parents’ social media sharing: if it concerns your kid, it concerns their online presence, something that will be with them for a long time. They should be able to have a say in what this image is, and be able to veto posts that they feel may take away from it. … There’s something to be said for building trust between parents and kids when we feel like our input is valued and our parents take our opinions into consideration when deciding to post. In my own extended family, we started a rule that all photos of anyone need permission before they can be posted.” — Grace Lagan, The Guardian

“Sharenting” is uncool — ask for approval first.

“As adolescents who are so insecure, parents should have to ask for our consent before they go and share pictures of us! I feel that when something includes us, like a picture, we have a right to our own privacy. … So for all those adults out there, my message is to listen to your child. These embarrassing photos are torturous for us and have the potential to haunt us forever. We are living in a time where kids really are going through anxiety, depression and other mental health issues through social media. So we want our parents to be there for us to turn to, not as people who heap on more social media-associated pressure.” — Tatjana Mager-Burr, Metro

Parents who post without consent are stealing their kids’ right to privacy.

“Many people want to share pictures of their children with family and friends. But teaching our children about online activity, data and privacy is important. And parents should lead by example. Wanting to show off our kids shouldn’t contribute to a system that normalizes surveillance and a lack of privacy. They’ll get enough of that anyway. Parents shouldn’t be giving the impression that even those closest to them will exploit a young person’s data or identity. That will just prepare them for a lifetime of expecting to be bought and sold online as part of a large data set.” — Garfield Benjamin, Newsweek

It’s not “disrespectful” for children to ask to consent.

“In a ‘no means no society,’ where we’re teaching our children to give and respect boundaries with their peers, how does it come across when their own parent blatantly disregards an easy limit they put in place? While we don’t propose letting your kids make their own rules for everything, letting them know that their voice matters is very important. The bottom line? Although it might be hard to swallow, giving your kids the room to say no is a good thing, especially when social media is involved.” — Murphy Moroney, Popsugar

There are risks in posting photos of your kids.

“Here’s a not-so-fun exercise for share-happy parents: Go through your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds and make a list of the info you might have posted. Name? Birthday? Locations? Doctor visits? Good friends and family members? Bath-time fun? Try to see that through the eyes of an insurer. Or a hacker. Or even a child predator.” — Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal

I’m a writer, and I won’t stop writing about my kids.

“In most of the articles I found on this subject, the writers eventually gave up writing about their children when they reached a certain age. They stopped to protect their children’s privacy. … I respect that approach and understand why it works for many writers, but it’s not a promise I can make. Certainly, my daughter is old enough now that I owe her a head’s up and a veto right on the pictures or on portions of the content, but I’m not done exploring my motherhood in my writing. And sometimes my stories will be inextricably linked to her experiences. Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her.” — Christie Tate, Washington Post

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