Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Social Media Manners - What's Your Code Of Conduct?

IMAGE : MORGUEFILE.COM | Social Media Manners
I was reading a post on an Australian parenting forum recently, where a mother was asking for advice on what you would do if a photo of your child appeared on Facebook (or similar) without your knowledge or consent. The mother was rightly pissed off and had only found out about it when someone commented that they'd seen the picture online and remarked on how much her daughter had grown up. The photo was neither dodgy or suggestive, but her dilemma was that she felt a little violated and unsure about whether she should ask the sharing mother to take the post down. Furthermore, she was interested in what the 'rules' are regarding social media manners given her permission had not been sought. Seems like a pretty clear cut case of thoughtlessness to me but it got me thinking about online etiquette and how grey the line obviously is for some people.

Clearly, I'm as mad for social media as the next guy so I always have plenty of content I could share if I wanted to. Having said that, I like to think I'm always careful to use good judgement when it comes to sharing. Before posting something online, I try to look at what it is that I'm sharing from someone else's perspective. What would this picture of my kids say to others about our family? Would my kids feel embarrassed by this if they were actively online themselves? Is there anyone in the image who I need to consider and if necessary ask their permission before I publish? It all seems like common sense thinking but actually in the throws of social media sharing, often one's radar of caution can be skewed by the prospect of popularity and basic manners can sometimes brushed aside.

The bottom line is that in my view, social media users should display the same amount of social etiquette online as they do in everyday life - asking permission to broadcast images of others is not only good manners but good copyright protocol too.  There are lots of people who avoid all forms of online sharing for privacy reasons and although I'm (obviously) not one of them, I completely respect their choice.  My general rule as a blogger and social media user is that I only share photos containing other people (or their kids) if a) they have a reasonable understanding of social media and are happily using it themselves and b) they give me their absolute, unconditional blessing before I publish.

When looking at this issue with regard to kids who are active, relatively new social media users, I'd be really interested to hear what advice parents are giving them about sharing protocol - surely at the age of pre-teen or teen, it's ALL about sharing pics of themselves and their friends? The contentious one here of course is Instagram where the entire premace of the medium is imagery. How do parents of online sharers feel about images of their own kids being shared by others? Is there an unspoken agreement on Instagram for example, which suggests that permission is never required simply because of the nature of the application? Given that my oldest is yet to enter the world of online social activity, I'm not able to comment but I've seen many times parents having to intervene when sharing has gone wrong for their child. As a result of this, it's definitely something I'll be chatting to my kids about if and when they begin using online social mediums (no doubt that conversation will occur in conjunction with the one about the dreaded Selfies phenomenon - it's turning into quite the list!).

So where do you stand on the topic of social media etiquette? Do you mind having images of your kids shared online without your permission if you're a sharer yourself? What's your usual judgement call when you have images containing other people to share online? Have you ever felt uncomfortable about an image of you or your kids that someone else shared online?


  1. we have a private group in facebook for family only - I am comfortable posting almost anything ( not nude) on that but got caught out and accidentally posted a photo of all the cousins on facebook via instagram - could not work out how to "share" the instagram photo with just the private facebook page. My general rule is post only my kids not someone elses unless I have their permission. btw go to the next round of the school cyber seminars they are all on this and more - I think you would find it really interesting. Jennifer.

  2. This is a really valid topic. I have had a friend post a pic of one of my children at a party (without my consent but....just out of fun) appearing to do something that would "raise eyebrows". I politely asked if they could remove it mentioning although I actually did find it funny, some may perceive it as outrageous and at the same time I didn't want to put an image out there that this was acceptable from my point of view. It then raised this very topic in my mind. I think it is important to think before posting especially when it's of other people's children. In future, If posting pics of other's children, I will certainly be asking permission to post if it would not be a private post. Hoping others go by the same rule. Natalie

  3. Great post I am also very mindful of putting photos up of someone's kids, or of anyone really, without getting permission. But I have a few close friends who certainly don't extend the same courtesy to me. I frequently see photos of myself or my family online which I had no input in, which I find disappointing. So far I have not seen one that has prompted me to ask to take it down but I certainly question whether these people (lovely people) have any idea of the possible implications of what they are doing.

  4. Such a valid topic, and one I haven't thought about too deeply yet, given my kids are still young. However, I am very mindful to always ask the parent's permission first if I'm going to put a group kids photo up on facebook with others' kids in it. It's courtesy - I feel if they're their kids, it's up to them how they'd like them portrayed or indeed WHETHER they're exposed on social media. I do it with adult friends too, if ever include photos on my blog. I'd never put a photo of them without their permission first. I think kids (and other parents!) should learn this as part of general 'etiquette' growing up. I think kids should grow up learning to 'ask your friends if it's ok to post'.