Photographing Host Children: What’s appropriate to shoot, and what’s appropriate to share?

by cv harquail on April 7, 2014

All children are beautiful.

When we, our au pairs, our families, and our friends see our beautiful child, it’s oh-so-tempting to try to hold that image of beauty still, to want to preserve it as a memory forever. When we adore these children, when we are proud of them, when we love them, we want to share these images with others as a way to say-– Look at this beautiful child!

Now, with smart phones, Facebook, Instagram and more, we can easily take photos of these moments of beautiful children and share them with each other.

But how do we know what’s an okay photo to take, and what’s an okay photo to share?picture-060.jpg

We need guidelines about what photos are okay to share publicly, with ‘friends’, or just privately with a family.

  • We need guidelines about what subjects are okay as photographs — especially how this changes with the age and sex of a child.
  • We need guidelines about whether or not a child’s face can be identified, or tagged, in a photo.
  • And, we need guidelines about when we should ask a child’s permission to take his or her picture.

An au pair living in Australia but originally from England emailed this question:

Dear AuPairMoms,

I’d love some advice from au pair moms about sharing photos on social media.

I care for two girls, ages 6 and 2. Last night when I finished braiding the 6 year old’s hair, I took a picture of her — she looked so pretty with her braids and her smile.

I immediately posted the picture on Facebook to share with her family — her mom and dad were away overnight. I also shared the photo with my friends.

While I didn’t think anything of it when taking the picture or posting it, she was dressed in her underwear (undies and an undershirt). The picture only shows her top half with part of her leg.

One person commented saying that as a Dad he wasn’t comfortable and that all kinds of creepy people could get ahold of the image. He assumed it would be flagged for inappropriate content. A second person agreed with him and asked please could I remove the photo. A third person said that while she recognized the innocence in posting the picture of the girl with her hair done that she did feel the same as the others. All of these people who commented were friends of mine from home.

I immediately removed the photo and messaged it privately to the girl’s parents.

But, I’m left wondering why pictures of people’s children in the bath fully nude do not get the same reaction. I have previously posted pictures of her toddler sister in underwear at the watermark with no remarks. There are pictures of the same children taken by family in the bath with similar ‘nudity’ being shown on Facebook. There were no remarks made on those images.

Obviously without seeing the picture you don’t have a full sense but — what are the important differences?

  • How nude is appropriate to post?
  • Is there an age association that it suddenly becomes sexualized?
  • What’s the difference between what photos are okay for a caregiver to take and share, versus the parents?

Thanks for the advice and opinions.


WarmStateMomma April 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I never photograph the diaper zone and would be upset if anyone else did so. If a kid is old enough for underwear, he/she is old enough to be wearing pants in any photo posted online. I do not take or share photos that I think would embarrass my child when she is older. I’d be pretty angry if anyone posted a photo of my child that was embarrassing to the child or too revealing, regardless of the child’s age. Every bully, bitter ex, and potential employer could one day find that photo and it’s not worth posting IMO.

APs should also ask their HPs (and HKs if they are old enough to have an opinion) if it’s ok to share photos of the HKs and what the boundaries are. For example, I’d expect my AP to have a few shots of her with my daughter on her FB page but I’d also expect everyone to be fully dressed.

spanishaupair April 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm

I take tons of pictures of my HKs, dressed but never put them on facebook, i dont feel like i have the right, I mean they are not my kids. I have them to remember this amazing time and wonderfull kids and to give to parents to see what kind of things do. And oh yeah have something to show my friends when we meet, like hey look how cute my little man is, yeah all aupairs love to show pictures of “their” kids to their aupair friends :)

I think you should ask your HP about if you can or cant do it, and what kind of pictures you can and cant

Brit AP Abroad April 8, 2014 at 8:15 am

Could not agree more about Facebook etc, especially as I would hate to have photos of me when I was little available to the world…
Sadly not all APs agree on this, and if you search #aupair on Instagram, the majority of photos include hostkids :/

spanishaupair April 8, 2014 at 9:15 am

Yeah sadly true, and all of the blogs and youtube videos of their year in USA, most are of there, with lots of pictures and videos of kids.
After taking the first few picutres of my HK i told my HM, yeah never thought about saying first because never had problems abot that, but i told her they were just for them and me, if they wanted to post them in their facebook was their choice, and she thanked me and said that some family members post pictures of her kids on facebook and didnt really like it.

Cali hostmom April 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm

We don’t share photos of our daughter, except with a designated list of family and very close friends, and we make it clear in the handbook that our au pair shouldn’t post photos of her (or any other personal information about our family) anywhere online. We welcome her to take photos with the phone we gave her, but if she wants to share them with us she can email or message them.

Once a kid is out of diapers, I wouldn’t post a picture anywhere remotely public without “bottoms.”

exaupair April 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

IMHO posting nude pics of infants, as long as the parents don’t mind, are not offensive and embarrassing to anyone. When the child is older (2yrs?) it’s out of the question. Not that small boys bottom would be regarded in any way sexual(for most of people!), to me this is just wrong.

My Host Parents were very private people and my contract specifically stated what can and what cannot be posted online or shared with anyone. It was a big NO to names of family members, photos of the family, and no photos the house that would give a hint on the location. I wasn’t allowed to give the address to anyone, within a reason obviously (did not apply to taxi drivers, delivery service whenever I ordered anything online, my partner, few friends).
Posting nude photos of kids went without saying.

AussiePair April 7, 2014 at 8:09 pm

It depends on the host family I think. Some families are über into social media and are happy to have lots of photos of their children put on Facebook, Instagram etc. Others are more private. I would always ask and show my host family a photo of their children before putting it on Facebook, after being told I could put anything up of their children on Facebook and just to tag the HPs in them at my last family I did that and never had an issue, and my HM was welcome to post pictures etc. of me. However this trust was something that came with time. And with my current family I haven’t posted any pictures with the children yet.

German Au-Pair April 8, 2014 at 5:11 am

I asked my HP the very first day if I could take and share pictures. I blogged excessively and even though my blog doesn’t show up in Google, it is public and had quite a few readers. Their rules were not to post inappropriate pictures and not share last names. Other than that I just used my own rules. I limited posting pictures on FB to exceptions but only posted on my blog. And only ones that werw relevant, not random pictures, so there aren’t a lot. I only posted what I would be comfortable with of myself, my own children, my family and basically anyone I care about. I shared detailed pictures of the house (like a virtual tour) only with close friends and family. Once we decorated the mailbox and I made sure not to show the number in the picture. I personally would not mind pictures in bathing suits but understand that culturally this is an issue, especially with girls. I would not post anything embarrassing (once a HD posted a picture of his toddler with something dark around his mouth and claimed it was poo. To this day I’m not sure of he was joking…).
My HP were very private people when it comes to social media so I made sure to respect that.

Regarding the OP, I also don’t think showing a kid with a top and part of a naked leg is a problem because that’s what you’d see if the kid wore shorts. Just because the shirt is not a shirt but an undershirt, it’s not different. If I understood right one could not see the actual hip area but just part of the leg like when you’d sit with your legs crossed and you can see the upper body and the knee for example. Nothing inappropriate with that.

WestMom April 8, 2014 at 6:45 am

We are a family that asked that no specific reference be shared on social media, including photos of our children. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a caretaker to share photos of the families. I have seen so many AP blogs out there that are downright irreverent to the HostFamily and I would be quite upset if I found out photos of us, and info about how we live as a family online.
Our next AP is VERY involved in Facebook. Actually I found her through her own Facebook Au Pair page. She also moderates AP pages. Before we matched, I pointed out that I was not comfortable with her documenting every part of our relationship in a public forum, and she agreed to keep her posts very generic (she offered to delete it). Still, I am a bit uncomfortable. So many APs post nasty stuff about their families, it worries me that it might be a negative influence to be so involved in the online AP community.
About this particular post, clearly some people felt the semi-nude photo was not appropriate. I personally have posted pics of my children in various states of undress and my main concern is to not post anything that would be embarrassing to them now or in the future. But I really don’t think it’s appropriate for our AP to do so.

skny April 8, 2014 at 8:01 am

While you can and should request that kids pictures or last names be shared in public, I dont think you can really moderate what an au pair post.
When I was an au pair (10+ years ago) there was no facebook, but I had myspace and 2 blogs. One of the blogs was a public that my family knew about. Other was private, under other name.
Same thing with facebook. She can block you from posts, open a second fake page only for friends….
Doesnt mean she will say bad things about you or your family, but most au pairs will make posts about their year.

WestMom April 8, 2014 at 9:28 am

I realize I cannot control what APs post online, but I expect her to self-moderate just like any responsible person would do. And she should write with the expectations that I might see these posts one day (even if I don’t!). I am very clear about this before we match, and it has never been a problem in the past (and hope it continues this way…).

AussiePair April 8, 2014 at 10:44 am

I think actually being friends with my host parents on Facebook makes it easier, not that I would post anything negative if I wasn’t, but having them on my friends list makes me self-moderate to a higher degree. I’m also friends with my grandparents and many older family members and I’m constantly rechecking myself to ensure What I post is appropriate for all to read. If I wouldn’t say it/show it to my HP or grandparents, it doesn’t go up. In saying that, there are things on my Facebook from when I was 16, 17, 18 and much more immature that I would never post now that I’m that little bit older

WestMom April 8, 2014 at 10:54 am

I’ll add that we are friends with all our past and current AP. The upcoming one, not yet… but I understand it takes a bit of time to get comfortable enough to friend someone on Facebook. I am sure it will come in time :)

exaupair April 8, 2014 at 11:06 am

The key is never to post things you’d be embarrassed of in front on ANYONE in your friends list. That said Facebook has some options that make posts visible to some instead of everyone, which is quite tricky, so I’d rather rely on au pairs decision making, maturity and our mutual agreement in terms of privacy. I would assume she makes some posts “invisible” for me, but same time I would want to be sure she does not post anything off limits. It’s about a great deal of trust, but if you can’t trust someone living in your house with your and your kids privacy, then why even keep this au pair….

spanishaupair April 8, 2014 at 11:11 am

Im friend with my current host family who i found in facebook when searching for a family when i rematch, and with my previous hf i think is nice and see how they do before and after being with them

skny April 8, 2014 at 8:02 am

not be shared I meant

caring hp April 8, 2014 at 8:08 am

Cyber stalkers/bullies or pedophiles or parents who are not supposed to cobtact their kids due to restraining orders could use the geolocation or embedded “properties” data present in smartphone and social media images to form a picture of anyones movements or activities or lifestyle.

We saw a security awareness demo on the above and it was shocking. We do not want APs, schools, camps or anyone posting our names, home or kids online. We were previously the victim of safety and security concern thanks to info the perpetrator found online. It was scary. Also we have job related security concerns that motivate our unwillingness to have this data posted online.
Some agencies have the APs pretrained on this generally. 2 APs even asked us to email their parents some great pics of the Ap and kids because they said the agency policy was that parents should mail the pic, not the AP

Momma Gadget April 8, 2014 at 9:53 am

This is a very important point!
If your kids/you/ or APs have a smart phones- Make sure to turn off your “locations” settings for your phone camera. Otherwise it attaches the geolocations Caring hp mentioned above to where the Photo was taken. Any stalker can determine the location of the school, the playground, you frequent, your house. In an example on the show we saw, they were even able to figure out which bedroom of the house a little girl slept in because of a cute PJ picture in her crib was taken with locations enabled.
Scary is an understatement.
Check this every time you upgrade systems too!

Anonamomma April 8, 2014 at 9:20 am

This is one of my real HATES – and I use that word very carefully….

All of my APs (including current AP) know that they are forbidden from putting pictures of my children on the internet – I don’t care about what they want to share with whom. They are here for their own experiences – not to post pictures of my children on the “world wide web”.

FB (for example) is a tool to be used by an AP to keep in touch with their family back home – not to broadcast my life/living conditions to strangers I have never nor (probably) will ever know – so I ask my APs to respect my privacy and that of my family – and not to post anything relating to my family (including pictures of the children/house/garden etc) on line..

If I found out that pictures of my children were posted by an AP on FB (and yes we are friends on FB – and I know that she can limit my access but I digress) – she would be on the next plane out …

Like I said I have explained this again and again and again to my APs – they understand and I’ve never had an issue with it.

In fact current AP needed to use some photos for a project she was doing and not only asked me first but made sure that the children’s face was turned away from the camera (she only needed to show the task being performed).

And you know what – it hasn’t stopped her taking pictures of the children and emailing them to me – to show me what a great time their having and of course she can share them within our family group … just not with the whole world..

APs – take it from me – you do not have permission to share pictures of the Host Children on line – unless you have asked for (and received) specific permission.

Mimi April 8, 2014 at 10:05 am

Most of my large family is scattered across the states and overseas so we rely on social media to keep them updated on our family. During their travel time, many of the APs have stayed with family across the states, and all of my APs have been friended by immediate and extended family and still keep in touch with them years after they’ve finished their time with us.

We include information on pictures in our handbook. “We don’t mind if you post pictures of the children on social media pages, but please make sure that you have specific privacy measures in place and that the images you post are appropriate. We will go over what is/isn’t appropriate and will help you with privacy measures if you need help. We also ask that you share pictures you take with the children with us and will provide you with discs for this. We treasure these memories and like to look over photos with the children of all the activities and fun times they will have with you.”

It helps that my kids aren’t the most cooperative subjects (they are always making faces in pictures) so this naturally limits the photos the APs are likely to post.

NNTexasHM April 8, 2014 at 10:31 am

Perhaps Skny’s casual attitude was meant to inspire debate. I have to wonder if she is aware that legally, each person owns their own image and it is against the law to publish or use images of another person in a public form without their permission. Does he/she know that unless the metadata from a photograph has been explicitly removed that anyone can download a picture off FB and find the location of where the picture was taken?

Even people in the US are not super sophisticated about the insidious use of the internet and folks outside the US are less aware of concepts of geotagging and what it reveals to strangers. I have not even touched on the fact that once an image is posted it can be downloaded and used on all sorts of horrible sites. Facial recognition is coming as well and that will further inhibit people’s privacy.

I don’t care what an Au Pair posts about herself but my child and my child’s image (which SHE legally owns) is not hers to use. For that reason we are explicit in our handbook that if we ever find any posting of our child on any social media site that is grounds for immediate rematch.

I urge you to educate yourselves on what you need to do to protect yourself:

HRHM April 8, 2014 at 11:02 am

I don’t think SKNY was meaning to be casual, but rather to point out that at the end of the day, you have very little control over what other people choose to do. APs are younger and perhaps generally more tech-savvy than lots of HPs. They have just moved from home where they may have kept two separate accounts, one public to appease their parents, one private for their friends with the red solo cups and bikini shots (my niece is 20, seen this first hand) They may tell you they don’t even have FB and unless they are searchable or using your desktop, you won’t be able to know differently.

I think it is incumbant to spell out to your AP both in the HFHB and in person exactly what your personal rules are. If she is a decent human being and a passable AP, she will respect the rules and allow you to be comfortable. If she’s a sneak and a liar, there will be nothing you can do to stop her and you may not even know it.

And while your image (and those of your kids) may legally belong to you, you will be hard pressed to find a lawyer or agency willing to go after anyone (especially a poor AP) posting non-abusive pictures of kids playing in the garden or eating lunch. Those laws are not enforced unless there is an associated crime involved (stalking, kid porn, harrasment, copyright infringement)

Mimi April 8, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Wouldn’t any image an AP takes technically (and legally) belong to her? Wasn’t this discussed after the recent celebrity ‘selfie’ at the Oscars? I think that the person who presses the shutter is technically the person that owns the copyright. Not even the owner of the camera (or phone/device) has rights to it.

This is a very complex issue. You can talk to your AP about your policy about pictures but without AP agency rules to back you, do you have the right to rematch? Would your AP agency support this?

exaupair April 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Not exactly, any photo of HERSELF that AP takes belongs to her, any photo of an underage child that the AP takes belongs to Host Parents.

Mimi April 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Legally, I don’t think this is the case. I’m not saying that’s right, but I think you’ll find that even in countries with paparazzi laws, it’s true.

NNTexasHM April 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Mimi, I work for a little tech company that knows something about photographic images called Adobe Systems :-) and at our employee training they tell us and every year they remind us that we as individuals each own our own image. Not the person taking the photograph. That is why photographers have to get permission to take pictures, are required to get releases to publish them, etc. All the agencies have to do this as well as do universities, corporations, and schools showing individuals on websites, in their brochures, in social media etc. You own your individual image and in order to use it in public, permission must be granted. So to restrict an AP from using a child’s image is not much of a stretch and I know that Interexchange in their contract has their AP agree that they will not use their host family’s images in any public context without express written permission. I think the others should as well.

AussiePair April 8, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Someone should tell this to LCCs… I know a few who have taken pictures of APs with their HKs off the APs personal Facebook (posted by HM and AP tagged in) to use on their pages

NNTexasHM April 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm

HRHM I believe I did say that I spelled it out in my handbook. (I didn’t say anything about engaging a lawyer or agency?). I merely stated the policy that worked for my family. Further, I was urging both Au Pairs to protect themselves against certain dangers and Host Families to understand the implications and outline rules that were suitable to their families.

If I follow your logic then as a host family I can’t rematch on an Au Pair for violating a non-smoking rule since technically it’s not illegal and there is nothing I can do if it’s done outside of my house and we both know that’s not the case.

HRHM April 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm

NMTexasHM, I wasn’t meaning to attack your position. I certainly think that you are within your rights to rematch with your AP at any time for any reason.

My point was that the “law” in this particular set of circumstances is not useful and that family policy is where the heart of this issue is. I think it’s great that you are clear with your AP and that you want to help them learn to protest themselves and your family.

BTW welcome to Aupairmom, where we are all generally friends and work toward finding common ground. I come here because it’s NOT dcurbanmom. LOL

Skny April 8, 2014 at 7:03 pm

I did not mean picture. I completely agree with pictures. I am a mother of 3, with Au pair myself (and My Au pair just posted a gorgeous pic of my 4yo and her on a nature walk, so I don’t mind it much).
I meant the part of not wanting Au pair telling about host family, posting frustrations, or others.
You cannot really control what they post. They can select who sees what post. All I meant is that if she really wants to complain about me on line, she can and there is nothing I can do about it

NoVA Host Mom April 8, 2014 at 10:37 am

This would bother me. We have taken the obligatory “three year old having a good time running around our house naked” pictures, but they aren’t to be shared.

Our compromise with our au pairs that want to share pictures of our kids has been this: text them to me. If we agree that they can/should be posted, I’ll post them and tag you in the picture. That way your friends can see what you’re up to, as “friends of friends” can see my pictures.

This also keeps the au pair “clean” with regard to APIA’s rules, which I have been told are outlined at orientation as simply DON’T POST PICTURES OF THE KIDS. How much any individual au pair is listening or can understand at orientation, is, of course, up for debate.

For the OP – In the future, I suggest simply texting the HP with these cute pictures. That way they can choose whether or not – and with whom – to share.

Emerald City HM April 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm

My oldest daughter just turned 3 and quite frankly does not like to stay dressed in the house. My husband and I will occassionally take pictures if she is doing something cute but happens to be only wearing underwear, but would never post those online in any form, public or private.

We ask that our au pairs don’t post pictures of the girls without our permission. I also do not post pictures of our au pairs without permission from them even if it is only to family. We also make sure that geotagging is turned off on all devices. We ask that they do not post pictures of being on vacation while we are on vacation (they can post as many as they like after we return home).

We have not had a problem with our au pairs posting pictures, however my MIL is an entirely different story… Yeah there is a picture of my oldest daughter out there on the www in her underwear and just guess who put it there.

WarmStateMomma April 8, 2014 at 3:58 pm

I just know this will be a problem with my MIL who doesn’t believe children have the same right to privacy or dignity as older people. I’m dreading that discussion.

German Au-Pair April 8, 2014 at 5:30 pm

You could argue that until they do, you need to make sure it will be their choice, not someone else’s.
There are pictures of me with my potty in the yard and naked at the beach. I’m glad social media wasn’t a thing back then.

WarmStateMomma April 8, 2014 at 5:33 pm


Cali hostmom April 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Now that I’m thinking about it, one AP candidate we were considering was knocked out of contention because I googled her name and found her over-sharey Instagram feed.

Seattle Mom April 8, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I have been way too laid back on this issue…. going to talk to AP tonight about changing privacy settings on all the pictures she posts of my kids. So far they have all been tasteful and not too many, but they are public. And she takes them with her phone, so there are probably those geo-settings. As someone who doesn’t take pictures with my phone, it never occurred to me. At the very least the photos should be set to ‘friends only.’

Skny April 8, 2014 at 8:08 pm

I know I will be the opposite but It is a positive that Au pair wants to post picture of her and kids.
Maybe it is silly or my own perspective or experience as a former Au pair… But my Au pair friends who were party girls who were here just to enjoy their time did not care enough to take a picture of the kids. They were kind of detached. They used to introduce themselves as exchanged students vs Au pairs.
The same way, after I got married and left my HF, and while I waited for my physical therapy license, I did some nannying for a family with a baby. I did a good job, was responsible and all, but had no emotional ties to the child. Was a temporary job while I got to work on my real profession. I took no picture of that child.
So I guess I see Au pair proudly posting a pic of herself hugging my child as a sign of genuine attachment…

HRHM April 8, 2014 at 9:32 pm

I tend to agree with this. Our best AP with the kids took HUNDREDS of pictures of them with and without her. Half the photos I have of those 12 months are from her. And while she left our family in early 2010, she still remains close to us and the kids. When we saw her at Christmas this year, it was like she never left even though DD6 was not quite 2 when she left.

The other APs, not so much.

Skny April 8, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Same way when I am interviewing someone that I have a chance to see Facebook (prior to match) I tend to look for pictures of person with kids. Any Au pair will have pics of herself with kids in the app. It is expected. But IF I have access to her Facebook I like to see picture of herself with that nephew she said she loved so much, or the girl she babysat since was born 10000 hrs before…
If all I see is clubbing picture with no child on whole Facebook I tend to wonder

DC Metro Mom April 9, 2014 at 3:14 pm

As others have stated, due to our careers and general safety concerns, DH and I are very specific and clear that picture of our daughter are NOT to be posted on the internet in any way. In addition, we are clear that no personally identifying information be provided on social media. Identity thieves, pedophiles, stalkers, et al rely, heavily, upon this information to find easy prey.

And, yes, people own their image and likeness, and have the right to regulate how this is used. However, what most young people still do not realize is that, once a picture is posted, it doesn’t really go away, even if you “take it down.” Also, some social media websites maintain property ownership of any picture posted. This is, usually, included in the terms of agreement that people sign onto with starting an account.

Regarding the required clothing/lack thereof of the children involved. I would strongly encourage all APs, HFs, and Agencies to become familiar with the laws of their states. In some states, posting such a picture online, or even sharing it with another person via text or email, may be defined as distribution of child pornography, which, needless to say, carries a lot of legal issues. Whether it was intended as such is not relevant.

Repeataupair April 11, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I blog about my life here and I also have a facebook page (the kind you like, not my private one). I post lots of pictures of the kids but I asked my host family about it before I ever posted one and they gave me a few rules (like no picture with the top half naked, in the bathtub, etc).
I also blogged my other year as an au pair and I was asked not to use any names on my blog. So I alway reffered to them by intials and that worked.

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