Social Media – Child and Parental Rights

When it comes to social media and children, parents should be careful. While many parents believe that posting photos of their kids online for friends and family is harmless, it can have unforeseen consequences – including adverse effects on child safety, data privacy, parental rights and child custody. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your children in the age of social media.

Should Parents Post Photos of Their Children Online?


It is a parent’s prerogative whether or not to post photos of his or her children online. A parent or legal guardian has the right to use images that they own in any way they see fit, including posting photographs of kids on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. However, it’s important for parents to consider the related data, privacy and safety risks.


What may seem like an innocent way to share moments and memories with others can put your family at risk of privacy violations or even more serious crimes. Major technology companies such as Meta and Google collect enormous amounts of personal information from social media use and internet activity. They often share this data with advertisers, marketers, law enforcement and government agencies. 


Tech giants aren’t always as careful as they should be with how they store and share user information. This leads to potential data leaks and breaches of privacy that can make it possible for hackers and fraudsters to exploit photos of your child – and the personal information that is automatically embedded in digital photographs – to commit crimes such as identity theft.

Can Social Media Photos Be Used in a Child Custody Case?


Another reason to hesitate before posting photos of your child on social media is the potential threat to your parental rights. Many parents don’t realize that what they post on social media can be admissible as evidence during a family law case, such as a divorce or child custody battle. If your ex-spouse’s attorney can convince the courts that your social media activity is relevant to the matter at hand, it can be admitted as evidence against you. 


Depending on the circumstances, photos that you post of your kids can result in a less favorable custody arrangement than what you wanted. Almost anything you post can be twisted around and used against you. For example, if you posted a photo of your child with your new partner, your ex could argue that you’re introducing your kids to new and strange people who could pose a threat to their physical or emotional well-being. 


Another example is if you post about how difficult your kids are to handle, even if you did so in jest or sarcastically, this could be used against you to show that you are a reluctant parent. The best way to protect your parental rights during a custody case is by staying off of social media altogether.

Should People Post Photos of Other Children Online Without Parental Consent?       


No. While parents have the legal right to post photos of their children online, this right is not automatically extended to others. Before a nonparent shares a photo of a minor online, he or she should get the permission of the parent or legal guardian. This can help the individual avoid legal trouble, such as being sued for privacy infringements or held liable for any adverse effects suffered by the child or family because of the photo.

Can My Ex Force Me to Stop Posting Photos of Our Children?


This is a gray area of the law without a clear-cut answer. Social media and the issues surrounding it are relatively new for family courts. Currently, no law in California specifically addresses this question. It is up to a judge to decide on a case-by-case basis. In general, if there is proof that actual harm is being done or that the child is in danger as a result of the photos being posted, your ex could prevail in stopping you from posting. Otherwise, it is unlikely that the courts would ban you from publishing photos of your own children online.


For legal advice about your specific situation, contact an trusted San Diego child custody attorney to request a confidential consultation.