Survey: Majority of Americans don’t think it’s necessary to ask for permission to post a child’s photo — despite the risks

It isn’t uncommon to scroll through social media and see a new mom posting photos of her baby, or a few shots of a family’s vacation. As social media has integrated itself into nearly every part of our lives, many are inclined to post photos of their day-to-day –– and for parents, that includes their kids. 

This phenomenon, nicknamed “sharenting,” has led to several concerns among parents regarding privacy, digital footprint, cyberbullying, fraud, and risk of predatory  behavior. To avoid this, there are some who believe children should have the power to approve or veto having their picture posted, much like adults do. Yet, many parents still post their children frequently and without permission.

We surveyed 3,000 Americans to see how they feel about the emerging presence of baby pictures on social media, and whether or not they think children should have the right to decline. Read on to find out more about how people view sharenting and consent. 

60% of Americans don’t think it’s necessary to ask children for permission to post their photo on social media.

Just like adults can remove a tag or ask that a photo be taken off of a social media network, some believe that children should be afforded the same opportunities. After all, the most accurate way to gauge whether a child is comfortable having their photo posted to social media is by asking them. But do people believe consent should actually be required prior to photo sharing? We surveyed 1,500 Americans to find out.

Just over half of those surveyed don’t believe parents should be required to get their child’s permission before posting them on social media. And it makes sense, for in the United States, 92% of two-year-olds already have an online presence created by their parents, well before they are able to give consent.

For parents, social media can be a place to turn for community or guidance –– or, at least, reassurance. In a study by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 56% of mothers and 34% of fathers reported turning to social media platforms for parenting advice, most commonly how to get kids to sleep. 

But parents can also see the risks –– in the same study, two-thirds of parents admitted to being concerned about their child’s privacy online, including strangers finding out personal information about their children, or reposting their photos without permission from the child or parents. Taking these concerns into account, asking for consent seems like a best practice for sharing photos of children. 

81% of people don’t judge parents for posting photos of their kids.

Parents who do decide to post photos of their children, however, don’t have to worry about intense blowback. In our survey of 1,500 Americans, 81% said they don’t judge parents for posting photos of their children online.

Social media is extremely common in the United States, with an estimated 79% of Americans signed up for at least one platform. The widespread use of social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have fundamentally changed the way we communicate, and that includes the rise of phenomena like “sharenting.” For now, public opinion on photo-sharing parents seems to be relatively positive. 

Yet, risks persist. The more we learn about social media, the more we learn about the dangers that come with it, including data trafficking, digital footprint, and addiction. In fact, though the majority of people may not judge parents, they seem to be able to identify dangerous behavior. 

The majority of parents on social media reported seeing another parent engage in a dangerous sharing practice, whether it was posting sensitive information about the child, sharing information that could help identify their location, or posting inappropriate images of the child.

Though there are risks involved, sharenting will likely continue. By implementing privacy settings and being careful not to post sensitive information or photos, parents can help minimize the potential danger and embarrassment of posting their child’s photos on the internet. 

Some ways to mitigate risk are the following:

  • Adjust settings so your account is private and protected
  • Don’t accept follow or friend requests from strangers 
  • Avoid posting inappropriate or potentially embarrassing photos
  • Don’t post identifying information such as your child’s name or birthday
  • Don’t post the location of the photo 

Parents should also talk to their kids about the dangers of social media. It’s helpful for children to understand that social media posts are permanent, and the inherent dangers that come with posting private information. Setting realistic but firm boundaries with your child will help foster trust in your relationship, while preparing your child to be online safely when they get older. It’s a good idea to start asking your child for consent to post their photo when they turn five.  

And for parents who want to be secure both on and offline, Bestow can provide a life insurance quote in minutes.

Methodology: This study was conducted for Bestow using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of 1,500 or more completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in February 2020. 

Sources: Stop Bullying | The Child Rescue Coalition