What You Need To Know About Pictures of Your Kids
This is one of those blog posts that has been brewing in my head for quite some time. We don’t talk about parenting issues or hot topics so much on Jersey Family Fun, but this is one that keeps coming up. And in this day of so much picture sharing going on across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever comes next, parents need to be aware of certain things when it comes to pictures and videos taken of their children.
When might your children’s picture or video be taken?
Who has permission to use that pictures or videos?
What information will be listed along with that picture or video?
Will I ever know how my child’s picture or video is being used?
Let me just say first that I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. But as a blogger mom with children who are frequently in the public eye I can share my experiences and what I have learned from them.
Picture taking at public events
I believe the general rule of thumb is that if you are at a public event, you are granting permission to the event sponsors and media (reporters, bloggers, certain photographers) to take pictures or video of your children and use them in print or online. Sometimes you may see signage stating that and other times you may not. However, even without signage, public spaces usually mean blanket permission to take and use photos. There will be times when your child maybe photographed as part of a crowd and not as recognizable, but there are other times where you might see your child’s photo on a Facebook page or a newspaper publication without being notified. If you don’t want your child in photos or videos then be aware of your surroundings while at a public event and avoid the cameras. Which brings up the point about print/online news sources.
Reporters & Journalists
There was a point in time where I thought it was cool to see my kid’s pictures in the paper and to have them talk to reporters. Now after an experience at a museum for the launch of a new exhibit I am not so sure. Let me explain.
My boys and I were excited to see one of our favorite museums open up a new play area. We expected to see reporters and were willing to be photographed for the museum. What came next I was not prepared for. The next day, friends started posting pictures of my kids from that event on a news site that I had not even talked too. Why was I alarmed?
- The reporter did not share that she would be sharing her story with this news source.
- The news site identified my children by name and city.
- The new site made it easy for ANYONE to buy copies of the photos of MY children.
Yes, without permission, a news site, that I had not given permission to, was selling photos of my children. You will notice on Jersey Family Fun I don’t use my children’s names (some of our bloggers do) and I never identify our town. Nothing might ever happen but I just assume play it safe and not take a chance. Seeing that photo everything changed and I moved forward cautiously when putting my kids in the public eye. As far as this news source, I called and emailed them repeatedly to have the option to buy that picture and even the picture removed. They never returned my calls or emails. The picture was eventually removed. I don’t know if that is because of my persistence or because I have friends who work there and acted on my behalf.
Regardless of what you or your child says to a reporter or member of the media it can be put out there. There is no real “off the record” and some journalists do not always act in the best interest of a child.
Are your kids in sports?
If your kids are in sports you have probably had to pay for team and individual portraits. And while most professional photographers do not give you permission to reprint their photos of your child what are you giving them permission to do with your photos? Will the pictures be available online? Can anyone buy copies? Keep in mind that even if your child’s name isn’t used if the team name is shown the picture is then identifying where your child lives. A few Internet clicks and you can find out the team’s schedule and where they play. Then, what about the budding photographer who is trying to grow his business?
My boys play street hockey. At one game in particular a photographer was running around the court taking pictures of the kids. He was getting several up close pictures. Then, this photographer ran around to all the parents handing out his business card and telling us how we could buy pictures of our kids online. Many parents thought it was cool. Me, not so much. Instead red flags went up. Who gave you permission? Who is going to be able to buy the pictures? Before that photographer returned to his office he had already received emails from me and I had already visited the local police station. (Mama bear had come out.) In some towns, there are laws about doing what he was doing and it is considered solicitation.
After a few rounds of emails with the photographer here is what I learned. The photographer was invited by a parent from the opposite team. The photographer saw it as an opportunity to make a few extra bucks by taking pictures of kids he did not have permission to. Apparently, the photographer very quickly asked the coach for permission. I am going to give the coach the benefit of the doubt and say his mind was focused on the game that was about to start and not what he was really giving permission to. That being said I don’t think a coach should give blanket permission like that without talking to the parents. The photographer had not thought about all the issues I brought up. He had planned on posting the pictures all online for anyone to buy without any safeguards in place. He has since said he would remove the pictures, get permission in the future, and put in safeguards so that only parents can decide who buys copies of the picture.
Additionally, be careful of having your children wear their sport uniforms at public events. My boys have hockey jerseys with their team name and last name. If I accidentally let them wear them to a public event and their picture is taken and used, then I’ve just revealed their name and local town without ever talking to a reporter.
At my boys’ school we are given photo releases at the beginning of the school year. We can give permission for their photo to be taken, their names to be used, etc. For the most part this is a blanket release schools use in the event reporters or such are at the school covering events. I tend to let my children be photographed but not let their names be used. Keep in mind though if your child talks to a reporter he/she may accidentally give their name. That name will then most likely appear in the paper or on the news site. (And again most papers make copies of photos they use and don’t use available for purchase to the public.) In fact, it’s for this reason that my kids and I have started to think of nicknames they can use for this situation.
Photographers at school also brings up the point of school photographers and school yearbooks. When you agree to let your kids take their posed school pictures how else will that photographer use that picture? Will the yearbook be available online for anyone to see? If yes, then your child’s name, school, city, and perhaps personality traits will be available. Earlier today a friend shared on Facebook a yearbook picture that showed up in another blog’s blog post. Follow the chain and we have a blogger network being paid by a company for an article. The picture in the blog post was a picture someone took of the yearbook picture of a child (a picture of a picture). The picture showed a child with his name and what he wanted to be when he grew up. Let’s play worse case scenario. If there is a someone in your community that wishes to do a child harm, they’ve got some great ways to start a conversation with your child. They know your child’s name, their school, city, their teacher’s name, their friends’ names, and what they want to be when they grow up.
Keep in mind too that school yearbooks and newspapers may also show pictures of our kids in candid moments we may not be aware they were in.
Beauty Pageants & Talent Competitions
When your child competes in front of a public audience, they are competing in front of a public audience for ATTENTION. I stress that because most likely their will be media there. Pictures and videos of your child will be shared and usually with their name and possibly their town. While it is never right for a stranger to use a picture for criminal purposes in that situation the media and event sponsor has rights to that picture. It’s very hard to claim after the fact that you don’t want to have your child’s information out there. The fine line comes with the photographer themselves. When you sign the waiver to participate in the event how much permission are you giving away? While I don’t agree with pictures of children being sold without permission it probably happens more than we think. The photographer donating their services to photograph the show or your child’s dance recital might be hoping it’s worth it if he or she can sell enough pictures of the event later on.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…etc
Today, these are the main photo sharing networks. Who knows what will come next? Here’s what you need to know. Yes, any picture you take and put out there should be yours and only you should have permission to use it but those rights are getting blurry. If you don’t check the fine print on some terms of service on social media channels they may have permission to use any photos you share. Facebook, Google, and others have gotten some backlash because the default settings get them permission to use your photos in their ads promoting their social media networks. Even with the protections turned on be careful about where and what you share. As far as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram anything you share with your followers can be seen and used by your followers. It may not be right or legal for a follower to use your photo but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Let’s go back to school or local sporting events again. If I take pictures of the school movie night and post them on Facebook and tag my friends whose kids are in the picture it does not matter what my privacy settings are. My friend’s friends will now have access to those pictures and whatever identifying information is in them.
Divorce & Custody Agreements
Not having 100% sole custody of your child, it can be hard to know when and how your child will be photographed and if permission from both or just one parent is necessary. If you are in such a situation and have concerns, please discuss them with your lawyers or mediators and have the agreement documented in legal papers.
Jersey Family Fun pictures
With all this in mind as the Jersey Family Fun editor I am very careful about the pictures we take.
- We will NEVER sell pictures of your children.
- We do take pictures and videos at OUR Jersey Family Fun events but we do not use your child’s name unless we have your permission (and sometimes we still won’t.)
- At public events, we try very hard to take pictures where other children’s faces are not recognizable.
- We love the photos you share on our Facebook page just keep in mind that they are all visible to our Facebook fans, that does not, however give our Facebook fans permission to use them.
What you need to know is when pictures of your children are out there and online they are searchable. Sometimes the child’s name may not be in a photo caption but might be in the picture’s title. Check the search engines for your child’s name. Don’t just check Google, but check Bing, Yahoo, all of them. If you find your child’s photo or video, decide if you are comfortable with how it’s being used. If not, contact the source but realize depending on the circumstances you may or may not be able to do something about it. Again, I am not a lawyer. This isn’t legal advice. I can only share my experiences and what as parents we need to be aware of.
The most important advice I can give you is always read the fine print and always always ask questions. I would rather be known as the annoying parent or have my child not photographed than risk putting them at risk.