Inappropriate images of children can range from scantily clad kids, provocative poses, age-inappropriate costumes or even less than polite hand gestures, so when a compromising image is shared of your child, it’s understandable that you’d want to act as soon as possible.
Parents have the ultimate final say in whether their kids are shared online or not, so if someone else posts a picture of your child, it could be instantly deemed inappropriate, whether the content of the image is perceived as such. As a parent or guardian, you are well within your rights to ask that the image is removed. It is advised that you set boundaries with the person regarding posting images containing your child going forward, either that they don’t do it at all, check their privacy settings so that only their friends can see it, or that they ensure they only post images where your child’s face is not visible.
When images are posted and the content of the image is deemed inappropriate, you are even more within your rights to ask that the image is removed. If the original poster refuses to remove the image that they posted, you can report the post to the social media platform that it was posted on. Depending on the level of inappropriateness, such as if your child is partially or fully unclothed, the poster of the image has broken the law surrounding child pornography and is liable to legal consequences.
Whether it’s your child that posts an inappropriate image of themself or someone else that posts it, it’s important to have serious conversations with your children regarding what content is appropriate to share and what isn’t. Help them work on their critical thinking skills by explaining to them that they shouldn’t allow other people to take compromising images of them. During these conversations, be sure not to be judgmental as if your child feels that they are being shamed for exploring their sexuality, they aren’t likely to come to you for any conversations dealing with sex and their sexuality in the future.
Explain that you have no issue with them exploring social media, but they need to do it in an age-appropriate way that won’t compromise their reputation or their future. Explain some of the consequences that could arise from posting compromising pictures, such as unwanted or inappropriate attention from older people or bullying from peers. Remind them of the existence of their digital footprint, which is easily visible to anyone willing to look for it, such as potential employers in the future. Ask them how they’d like to be viewed by other people online and remind them that they may post something in one context, but it could be taken very differently by someone else.
It’s important as a parent or guardian to “stay with the times” and to know which social media platforms your child is using and how they work. You don’t have to heavily monitor your child to the point of becoming a helicopter parent, you just need to know how they could potentially use these platforms to either improve or compromise their reputation, both now and in the future.