The Social Baby: The Ethics of Posting Kids' Pictures Online

Should you post pictures of your kid on Facebook?


Mike and Lizzy Acker are what some (possibly racist) people would call Irish twins: Lizzy was 13 months old when Mike was born. Mike is the father of a 5-month-old baby, referred to here as "2chainz" (taken from her pre-birth nickname, "Lizzy 2chainz Brandon Roy").

Mike and and his wife, Olivia, have decided not to share pictures of 2chainz on the internet. Lizzy likes sharing pictures of babies on the internet and claims that 2chainz is one of the cutest babies ever, not to mention her first and potentially only niece. To get around the stipulation that she may not post pictures of 2chainz, Lizzy takes pictures of the baby and covers her head with an animal face using an app called FarrOut.


The two sat down to discuss their differences of opinion.

Lizzy: Why won't you let me post pictures of 2chainz on the internet?

Mike: The baby can't give her consent. We do a lot of things for kids thinking they're OK with it, and we don't really know. That's a big deal to me. I want her to feel like she can have some control over her life.

Lizzy: So when will she be old enough to give her consent?

Mike: Hopefully, by the time she's old enough, Facebook won't exist anymore.

Lizzy: Did you ask for her consent to get shots?

Mike: No.

Lizzy: What about send out a family Christmas card?


Mike: That's fine.

Lizzy: But why is that different?

Mike: Sharing pictures with family is different because it's more of a closed loop.

Lizzy: But you share pictures of your cats. Your cats definitely can't give consent.

Mike: Essentially, cats are property. You share pictures of your chair! [Editor's note: Lizzy does not share pictures of chairs.]


Lizzy: What if someone else shares a picture of her? Do you have a consent form?

Mike: The day care center where we send her takes pictures and puts them up on Facebook, and they asked us if we wanted to participate, and we said no.

Lizzy: What are you going to do when she's at a birthday party and people are taking pictures? Will you consider making a paper bag for her? Like a special birthday bag?

Mike: Over the holidays, we made a point of telling people: "Look, don't put pictures of her up on the internet." They understood. I think when it comes to things like birthday parties, we might have to say, "Just don't tag us." We'll have to be vigilant.

Lizzy: Technically, depending on what they're consenting to, a kid can't really consent to anything until they're 18. So will you not let her post pictures of herself?

Mike: I knew this was going to happen. I knew we were going to sit down and talk about this and you were immediately going to be able to deconstruct my reasoning. I think right now it's really easy for us to not do it because we have a lot of control, but I think as she gets older, it's going to be a conversation we have on a continuing basis.

Lizzy: Isn't it possible that saying, "You're never going to have a picture of you on the internet," is sort of like saying, "You can never have a boy in your room," in that then she'll just want to do it more?


Mike: I agree. I think when you say, "You can't do this," the first thing they're going to do when you're not looking is that thing you don't want them to do. But there are people that we know, that neither of us have seen in 10 or 15 years and we see pictures of their kids every day since they were born.

Lizzy: But isn't there a line between, say, posting, "My child just pooped in the potty!" and every three months seeing your kid?

Mike: We take a fuck-ton of pictures of our kid. If you're a friend of mine and you want to see a picture of my kid, you can text me and I will send you a picture. We're not not taking pictures. But this is something that doesn't belong to everybody. And what about your friend that you had to unfriend because they called Obama a racial slur? I don't want that person to see pictures of my kid.


Lizzy: You know you could also set your privacy settings so that you could post a picture and only your family would see it.

Mike: I just don't feel like it's a space that I want to put my kid into. Why do you feel like you need to put pictures up on the internet of kids?

Lizzy: I like the idea of telling the story of my life and creating it the way I want to. For me, the kids are part of it. But I also agree with your consent thing…I think it's complicated. There has to be a line because, at some point, 2chainz is going to be old enough that you have to decide how logical your logic is going to be. Because if you tell her, "Well, we can't do anything without your consent," I think she's going to be a smart kid, and she's going to be like, "Well, fuck you. I will not go to school then."


Mike: It's complicated.

Lizzy: Facebook has a lot of flaws. The main one is that it monetizes our relationships, and that is fucked.

Mike: And it encourages you to curate your life. To leave out the parts of it that aren't perfect for social media.

Lizzy: But that's what we do all the time anyway. I think there's a more interesting way to do it, and I hope that if we continue in this way, there's like classes for kids in school.

Mike: With what you do with 2chainz [posting the animal pictures], if we asked you to stop, what would your reaction to that be?

Lizzy: Well, I would stop.

Mike: What do you like about doing that?

Lizzy: We post pictures of our family, and she's part of our family. So I think not having any pictures of her is an omission. In some ways, this is going to become the record, and she's part of it.

Mike: One of the issues that we have is that I'm a lot more private than you are. I don't write stories about myself. A place where I feel like I would maybe change some of my views is that we have these family members who, like our aunt in Texas, want to see pictures of 2chainz. I think that's where Facebook really excels. But you say, "Set the privacy settings," and then Facebook has the pictures.

Lizzy: But you understand that Google has your pictures now. If you wanted to take only pictures on film and then also develop them yourself, you could do that. I think completely opting out is one thing, but you guys haven't completely opted out.

Mike: You're right that we are opting out in a way that's very selective. It works for us right now because of the age that she is. Going forward, it's going to be more and more difficult. We want to teach her how to be respectful of herself and how to be respectful of other people.

Lizzy: How can you teach her how to act responsibly in this world that she's going to live in, regardless of what you want, if you tell her she can't be part of it? We live here, and you can pretend like we don't, or you can acknowledge the fact that we do and deal with it.

Mike: In the future, who knows? Maybe Facebook will go away.


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