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Posting children’s photos online could have adverse consequences

Dr. Veita Bland / November 11, 2016

Although this photo may be cute and appears quite innocent, posting it online makes it available to the world for all time. In later years, it could be a source of bullying or teasing for the child.

Although this photo may be cute and appears quite innocent, posting it online makes it available to the world for all time. In later years, it could be a source of bullying or teasing for the child.

We are in the midst of the holiday season. Many people will be sharing all kinds of pictures on social media. We just saw all of the cute pictures online of children in their Halloween costumes. No doubt they were just darling but are the parents inadvertently harming their children’s reputations? Are they sharing too much?

Dr. Bahareh Keith, a University of Florida professor of pediatrics and Stacey Steinberg, JD, a law professor at the University of Florida, have teamed up to examine this issue. “We want to shift the social discourse so we can balance a parent’s right to share with a child’s right to privacy,” attorney Steinberg said.

They point out that parents can post private information about their children online that will leave a public, permanent record which can reach far into the child’s past and far into the child’s future. They pointed out that online posts focusing on everyday issues such as potty training could lead to cyberbullying in middle school or even scrutiny during a job application screening. They also point out that pictures placed online can be copied and shared with an audience far wider than the parents had desired.

The rest of the world is already looking at this. It was noted that in a study done in Australia it was found that half of the pictures found on pedophilia Web sites were pirated from social media. Steinberg noted that European countries have recognized the legal rights to privacy.

Individuals can force an internet provider to delete information or links to Web sites. This has not happened in the United States. Interestingly, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child has enshrined children’s right to privacy but the United States Senate has never ratified the treaty. Courts in the United States have put freedom of speech ahead of privacy. Steinberg says that the U.S. law gives guardians the role of gatekeeper in making decisions about children’s privacy but in this case the parents have a conflict of interest.

Keith and Steinberg suggest that parents set up notifications to help detect when a child’s name is online. Parents should also use caution when sharing a child’s location online. They also suggest that parents have “veto power” to older children regarding what is shared online.

Lastly, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development in Seattle, Washington noted that pediatricians typically counsel adolescents to be careful about what they post because of the permanency of a digital footprint, but such counseling for parents has not been fully implemented.

Maybe we should start to counsel parents on this important issue. The picture you place online today will be there forever.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at


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