What to Do if There Is an Image of Your Child on Social Media

What to Do if There Is an Image of Your Child on Social Media scaled
What to Do if There Is an Image of Your Child on Social Media scaled

It is hard to know what to do if there is an inappropriate image of your child on social media or the internet. Hopefully you have already spoken to your child about the responsible use of social media so that they do not only become a victim, but also do not inadvertently share images they shouldn’t of other people. This article contains information about how to safeguard your child’s privacy when others upload images of them without their permission. Sharing images online has grown so ubiquitous that most people don’t hesitate to publish photos on social networking sites. The platforms that your child uses will not be the same as you, and are forever changing. Some of the newer ones and even those like Snapchat, purposely prevent there being a record of what has happened.

This article covers two topics. Firstly when someone you know publishes a photo that is an error of judgement. For example your child drunk at a party or in a bikini that you or they are uncomfortable about. The issue is that the legality of publishing photos is not as harsh as you would like, hence journalists being able to earn a living.  

Then there are those that are more nefarious or illegal nature where either the person is unknown or an innocent picture has been manipulated in someway or tagged in a non-complimentary way.  

At the end we have a series of links that link to the main social media sites to enable you to do this. 

The first thing to note that social media sites do not have policies to remove photos just because you don’t like them. If they are illegal, for example porn, they have policies in place. What they will do have are simple mechanisms to remove tags. So the photo will stay on social media, however will not be linked to your child. This means that their friendship groups who know them will be able to see it as it will be on threads that they are already on. However strangers will not be able to find it. 

Your child posting images on Snapchat which have then been reposted is slightly different and we approach this topic here. With sexting your child things they are sending an image to one person. But with all secrets at this age, nothing can be promised or expected. If your child is in a relationship like this, and it is more common than we would like, you will need to take action.

What Are the First Things You Can Do?

Here are several approaches you may take if someone uploads images of your children without your consent. Depending on the age of your child it might be them who does it. These first four are suitable if you know the people and think that has been an error of judgement. Thinks could be difficult if it is a partner or close family member which is why parenting plans should be joint, even if you are no longer together. It is also important that if you or your child is expecting of this, that you also do the same. In the same way, if they have a YouTube channel that shows them in a similar state of dress it would make such a conversation difficult.

  • Simply ask the person who uploaded it to remove it or crop it so your child isn’t in the photo, which is simple to do with today’s image-editing software. 
  • If you approve of a photo but only want specific individuals to view it, request that the poster activate settings that limit who may see the photo to a limited circle. 
  • Inquire about the poster’s privacy settings. Only their friends may see their photographs if their profile is private and not public; this also restricts the audience for your child’s photo. 
  • Request that the poster does not tag the photo with any names or locations. This will restrict the exposure of your child’s photo. 

If they do not seem willing to do this as a matter of decently, or the picture is particularly alarming you could then move on to try;

  • Explain that you are concerned about your child’s privacy. Anyone with access to the internet can view your child’s photo once it’s shared. Look for them to show empathy with your situation.
  • Request that the poster instead utilises a private photo-sharing service that needs a log-in, such as Picasa or Flickr.

Victim-Support Organisations

If the above has not worked it is worth seeking advice from organisations within your own country. They will be able to give specific information that is relevant to your situations. The situations will almost all be individual as to the nature of the image and who is involved. It might be that you have to follow the advice below.

What About if They Are Unwilling to Do Anything?

In many jurisdictions, it is a crime for someone to disclose your personal images or films or to threaten to do so. You can take some steps to determine if what happened is a crime. This can get very messy. If the people involved are of school age, my strong suggestion would be to raise with the school. Many, like us, have policies in place that are related to social media and bullying. If the image undermines an individual or is there to make fun of them the school can intervene. In my experience, as soon as someone sits in front of a senior member of staff it is not the hassle to continue putting it up. If it is of a sexual nature it is legally producing and distributing child pornography and it has been known for teenagers to be put on the sex offenders register for this ruining there life chances. This should make most parents take action.

Keep the evidence. Save conversation threads, photos, and screenshots of webpages, with the URL displayed, in a secure location, such as a password-protected hard disc. If you find it upsetting, you might ask someone you trust to do it for you. A screenshot is a stored image of everything that is visible on the screen. You should learn how to snap screenshots on various devices. It’s recommended not to remove anything until you’ve informed the authorities. There might be further proof required. 

Inform the authorities. If it is an adult putting a picture up of a child, depending where you are it will be worth looking into this. Call the authorities or go to your local police station to talk with someone. Victim support in your country can give you advice either online or on the phone. The police will determine whether or not to investigate your case. This movement by the police will likely make someone remove the image. However it if is sinister it may be necessary to carry on as below. At this point you will probably decide to break ties with the person. To carry on with this means that the issue will continue for several years. There is a judgement to be made as to whether now to let it lie, and the picture will disappear in the fullness of time, or if is particularly disturbing to matter further.

If the police suspect a crime has occurred, they will conduct an investigation. They could collect evidence and you will be requested to provide any screenshots, messages, or emails, and they may take the accused’s laptop and phone. 

The police may also take statements about what occurred from you and any other witnesses. People will be interviewed and they will also interrogate you and the individual you identified as sharing the images separately. The authorities will assist you with alternative options. If the individual is your spouse or ex-partner, there are additional legal safeguards against further abuse. If the police determine that a crime has been committed, they will turn everything over to the prosecutor, who will decide whether or not to prosecute the accused. 

What if It Is of a Sexual Nature?

So the image of your child doing something stupid at a party is a cause of embarrassment but will tend to past. The issue is tougher if it is an image of a sexual nature, and your child may of shared by sexting or was unaware that it would be shared. This is why it is important to talk to your child at an early age about what a healthy relationship looks like. This recently has become illegal in many countries and, unfortunately, if shared widely on certain websites, is rarely possible to make totally disappear but it is possible to relatively simply make it so that is not linkable to the victim and will no longer come back to haunt them. Speed is of the essence here due the speed that images can move from a defined social media group to a wider audience of strangers. Even if the image was made consensually at the time, it being share is distributing child pornography, as serious offence in all countries. I would focus on this, rather than appealing to the offenders feelings.

Remove your photographs and videos. Wait until the police say it’s safe to do so, since they may be gathering evidence. Except for carefully trained organisations, these photographs should not be accessed by anybody. Report a child’s sexual photo or video on the Internet Watch Foundation website. They will attempt to get the picture or video removed on your behalf. 

Try a reverse image search to see whether websites have a duplicate of the picture or video. Contact the website’s owner, who is known as the webmaster. You can request that they remove the photo or video, but they are not required to do so.  

Report social media users or content and request that search engines delete photos. Most social media networks such as TikTok, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, allow you to immediately report a person or improper content. 

If you have got to this point, we would strongly suggest that you contact an organisation. The below is only for information and guidance in case you are interested incase it happens in the future.

The webmaster is not required to consent to the removal of the photo or video. If they do not, you may contact them again with the assistance of a lawyer. Explain the issue, as well as the fact that the images or videos are part of a criminal investigation. This may encourage them to take them down. Through its agreements with Facebook and other social media networks, organisations like the Revenge Porn Helpline can assist you in removing photos and videos. 

They will also be able to give you advice on how to produce new online material, such as websites, blogs, and photographs, in some situations, to push stuff that you don’t want people to view anymore in search engine results. There are also firms that ask for money to delete photographs and pictures from the internet on your behalf, a practice known as reputation management. This may be quite costly but could be money well spent. Again, if financially possible, speed is of the essence.

What Exactly Is the Crime? 

It is not illegal to share personal photographs or videos of oneself with another person privately if you are both consenting individuals.  It is illegal to show intimate photographs or films to another person, email them to another person, upload them to a website, or threaten to do so without the owner’s permission.  

The person who shared the image or video must have intended to provoke fear, panic, or anguish, or been oblivious to the possibility. Oblivion implies that it was a foreseen outcome of their activities. 

Sharing personal images or videos that are already in the public domain with the approval of the person in them is not a crime. For example, if a person takes a pornographic photo of themself and posts it to a public website, those who share the photo are not breaking the law. 

What Types of Photographs and Videos Are Included? 

Photos or films are considered intimate and are protected by law when they depict a person engaged in or present during a private sexual act or genitals, buttocks, or breasts that are exposed or just covered by undergarments. 

A visual or film would be on a mobile phone in digital format, for example, on a messaging programme like WhatsApp, Hard copy or printed, including negatives, electronic storage on a hard drive or disc, an original copy, including screenshots, digitally enhanced or modified photos that have been photoshopped but are not entirely computer-generated, and sexts that contain sexually explicit pictures. 

The ban does not apply to text messages or emails that do not include images. They might be charged with another offence, such as threatening or abusive behaviour. You should still call the police or visit your local station. 

What Exactly Is Consent? 

Images or videos may be transmitted to another person freely as part of a healthy relationship. Nobody should be forced or pressured into sending these. 

Whatever the reason for taking or sending a photograph or video, most individuals do not anticipate or want it to be widely disseminated. Any photographs or videos you receive should be treated as private. Do not distribute, post, or display them to others. 

If the individual in the photographs or videos consented to their sharing, or if you reasonably thought they consented, you have a defence to the offence. In court, you would have to present evidence supporting this. 

There is also a defence if the individual in the photograph or video decided to be personal in public, such as naked demonstrators. 

If You Are Under the Age of 18 and Your Photographs or Videos Have Been Shared 

The law protects you from sharing personal photographs, and there are also special criminal regulations in place to safeguard minors. It is illegal to take, create, share, or store an indecent photo or video of a child under the age of 18.  

The sole exemption is when 16 or 17-year-olds take personal images with a spouse or partner and do not share them with anybody. If images or films of you are circulated, you have the following options: 

Contact the Police or Call Childline for help; they also provide sexting information online. Report a photo or video to the Internet Watch Foundation, and they will attempt to get it deleted on your behalf. 

If you’re concerned about someone you’ve been communicating with online, contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. You can also talk to your parents or someone you trust, such as a teacher. 

If you are concerned about child abuse, grooming, or improper internet communication, call the NSPCC. This may be done anonymously.