“No Photos Please”

Our post last week about Nora Shine’s talk on keeping your kids safe was so popular we decided to do a follow up. Here we look at the idea that no one should photograph children except their parents.

Much like Shine’s “Privates Rule” the “No Pictures” rule puts the onus on the grownups not the children. It also conditions the kids to easily understand when the rule is broken. It’s the latter part that’s key. Kids have a hard time in grey areas, maybe something is okay, maybe it’s not. It’s best to leave the judgement up to the parents, not the children. The simpler you can make the rule, the more easily children will understand it.

No one should take your picture unless mom or dad is with you.

“Unfortunately, we´ve also seen a historic rise in the distribution of child pornography, in the number of images being shared online, and in the level of violence associated with child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes. Tragically, the only place we´ve seen a decrease is in the age of victims.
This is – quite simply – unacceptable.”

-Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. speaks at the National Strategy Conference on Combating Child Exploitation in San Jose, California, May 19, 2011.

This is a world wide problem. We’ve already seen schools, camps, extracurricular activities issue policies requiring parents to sign permission slips before any photos of children are taken.

The “No Pictures” rule started from the famous body rules by Doc Green. It evolved as we learned that kids are literal with their language and asking them to differentiate between an “okay” photo and a “not okay photo” became too much to ask.  It’s much clearer to just say no photos without mom or dad.

When you tell the grandparents, friends, babysitters not to photograph your children they should understand you’re not accusing them of bad behavior you’re asking them to help you keep your children safe. If it’s okay for some grownups to snap away without mom and dad there, then why not others? The simplest rule is no photos can be taken unless the parents are present. Kids understand that.

Consider how you would feel. For example, never in my wildest dreams would I take pictures of someone else children without their parents around. When I’ve wanted to take photos of my nieces doing something adorable with their cousins, I’ve always asked their parents’ permission first. This isn’t heartbreaking, it’s just being polite. I have several friends who have rules about not wanting their children on social media, and I’m glad I know their rules and make sure I respect their choices. This is the same thing, it’s just looping in the children, so they clearly understand the boundaries.

As Nora Shine perfectly explained, we all need to work together to keep our kids safe. The best way to do that is to empower the kids to recognize when a rule has been broken and to report it back to the parents.


Web sites like Care.com instruct caretakers not to photograph children. The site also tells its sitters never to post anything about the children and the job on social media sites.

In the United States and England more and more schools are using privacy laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to ask parents not to take photos at sporting events, school plays and other group activities. Since many parents now have the “No Photos” rule schools are creating safe spaces where kids don’t need to police other people’s parents.


The other concern around pictures involves social media.

“Last week, Facebook updated its privacy policy again. It reads in part: “We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend’s pictures to information we’ve put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you’ve been tagged.” Essentially, this means that with each photo upload, Kate’s parents are, unwittingly, helping Facebook to merge her digital and real worlds. Algorithms will analyze the people around Kate, the references made to them in posts, and over time will determine Kate’s most likely inner circle.”

Myriad applications, websites, and wearable technologies are relying on face recognition today, and ubiquitous bio-identification is only just getting started. In 2011, a group of hackers built an app that let you scan faces and immediately display their names and basic biographical details, right there on your mobile phone. Already developers have made a working facial recognition API for Google Glass. While Google has forbidden official facial recognition apps, it can’t prevent unofficial apps from launching. There’s huge value in gaining real-time access to view detailed information the people with whom we interact. The easiest way to opt-out is to not create that digital content in the first place, especially for kids. Kate’s parents haven’t just uploaded one or two photos of her: They’ve created a trove of data that will enable algorithms to learn about her over time.



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