No, I won't be asking for my toddler's permission before taking their photo

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

I have two young boys and I often take photos of them and share them to social media. 

I snap away and post the images with little love heart emojis and silly captions because a) I think my kids are kinda cute b) it's a lovely way to share their escapades with family and friends and c) it's an incredibly easy and wonderful way to document their childhood. 

Let's face it, I am stretched to the absolute limit and have zero time or energy to create actual photo albums. 

I might also add that I don't post frequently or 'overshare' and nudey pics are (obviously) a no-go.

So when I heard that the federal government's E-safety watchdog has issued new guidelines recommending parents ask their child's permission before taking a photo "from an early age", I sat up and took notice.

"Do the same before you share a photo or write something about them on social media," states the new booklet called 'Online safety for under 5s'.

"Let them know who will see it, why you want to share it and respect their decision if they don't want to share it." 

The booklet was launched today by the eSafety Commissioner as part of a campaign for increased online safety and awareness for Australians and their families. 

"Be mindful of what you share online about your child, as this may form part of their lasting digital footprint," the booklet warns, which is chock-full of really important advice and tips. 

This point really struck a chord with me. When we were kids, there was no internet or Facebook, no permanent record of anything beyond the well-thumbed photo albums or school magazines gathering dust on our grandparents' bookshelf. 

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The booklet continues: "It may seem silly to ask permission from a two-year-old, particularly as children can't legally give consent to share their image. But the point is to model consent and respectful data sharing practices."

Hmm.. sorry commissioner, I wholeheartedly agree that it's our job as parents, and the frontline of defence, to keep our kids safe online but surely that is taking it a step too far.

Photo: esafety.gov.au

Photo: esafety.gov.au

My two-year-old Max, who has the biggest smile and most exuberant nature, would probably say "yes Mummy" before throwing himself head first into the camera frame.

The following day he might say, "No. Yucky mummy, we better call Fireman Sam" when I ask him because, well, he's two. 

And then he might lick the door and poke a crayon into his brother's ear, before asking for peanut butter on toast. Then he'll proceed to throw the requested food at me because he doesn't want peanut butter on toast, he wants vegemite. And he wants it cut in triangles not squares, thank you very much.

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The point is, he's a toddler. He changes his mind in an instant. He also loses his mind regularly - because his frontal lobes are still developing, his cognitive function is limited and he's still learning how to regulate his emotions.

 And therefore, it's my role, as his parent, to make informed decisions on his behalf.

The word "informed" here is pretty key. My darling two-year-old can make a decision, sure, but it certainly isn't going to be very informed. He doesn't actually understand what it means to share his photo to a social media platform. He just thinks the doggy filer is funny. 

Do not get me wrong, kids must be educated about the perils of social media and online privacy - but at two?

The debate is reminiscent of the furore when a certain expert suggested we ask our baby's permission before we change their nappy. 

And it seems I'm not alone in this perspective.

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Let's absolutely have the conversation with our kids. It is vital. But let's keep it age-appropriate.