Facebook—the means by which you update your Facebook friends (most of whom aren’t actually your friends) with your every random thought and the last picture you took on your smartphone, and share the link to the article you haven’t actually read.

Most people don’t give much thought to what they share on Facebook, including photos. Thanks to smartphones and apps such as Instagram, 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook everyday. To put it another way, in the amount of time it takes you to read this blog post 833,333 photos will have been uploaded to Facebook.

While you certainly are free to post 5,000 photos of your kid (and your “friends” are free to unfollow you), what about photos of your kids with other kids. Do you need permission to post photos of other children on Facebook?

Well, that depends.

Legally, you can post any picture that you take in public that contains recognizable images of people, regardless of age, without permission. The key word here is “public,” a place where people don’t expect privacy. The sandbox at the public playground is “public,” but the sandbox in someone’s fenced in backyard is not. Of course, there are certain exceptions. For example, if the photo is used for sexual or predatory purposes, this could violate child pornography laws.

Ethically, it’s a whole other story.

Posting photos on Facebook has risks. Posting a photo of a kid creates a digital footprint (an electronic paper trail) that forms the kid’s identity in a world they have not chosen to enter yet. Once you post a photo, you lose complete control over it. Someone could easily copy the photo or otherwise use it (e.g., advertising, memes, child pornography, etc.), and you would never know.

Every parent should have the right to evaluate the risks and make decisions about their child’s privacy. Don’t assume every other parent feels the same way as you do about social media, and ask permission before you post a picture of someone else’s child.

What can you do if you are not comfortable with other people sharing photos of your kids? Unless the photo violates Facebook’s terms of service, there is not a whole lot you can do to get the photo taken down. If you don’t want photos of your kids shared online, it’s up to you to let people know (and hope that they cooperate).

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