Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World

Dear Amy: What is the etiquette on taking photos of other people’s children and posting them on social media?

I am the mother of two small children. The first time I encountered this issue was when my oldest was 2 and my youngest was a few months old. We attended a family function and a guest at the party took pictures of me and my children. He proudly showed me the images and told me that he had posted them on his Facebook account.

I kindly told him to please remove the images off his account. I was shocked by his reaction; he became upset and made a huge scene at the party, but I did not back down (and my husband stood by me). I have experienced versions of this since then.

My social media accounts are all private. I feel that my job as a parent is to protect my children, and that includes their social media footprint.

I do not post many photos of my children and I would never post a picture of someone else’s child without the parents’ permission. I go as far as to ask the parent if it’s OK to take a picture of their child and then inform them that I will NOT be sharing them on social media.

I know that it will get harder for me to control this once they are involved in sports and activities where group pictures are taken or where my children happen to be in the background, but their faces are very clear. Am I wrong in thinking a person should ask the parents’ permission before sharing the images online?

Do parents feel that since their child is in the picture, too, it’s OK to share? I cannot imagine I am the only parent that feels like this. How do other parents handle this?

— Wondering Mom

Dear Wondering: The etiquette, which is also good old-fashioned common sense, is to always respect parents’ concerns regarding their own children. Your practice of maintaining privacy and control of your children’s images is what all good and thoughtful parents should do. Your habit of always asking if you can take a picture, and then assuring parents that you won’t post it on social media, is wise, sound and respectful. Other parents should not post photos with your children in them without asking you. They also should not tag your kids’ names in photos.

If someone else doesn’t like this, then they should be reminded that they are not raising these children, you are. Stand your ground.

Dear Amy: My youngest brother spent about six years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a young woman he met at a bar. While he was in prison, we exchanged a few letters, but I did not go to visit him. He expressed remorse for what happened, and was receiving counseling in prison.

He was released from prison earlier this year, and now lives about a 30-minute drive from where I live, so I’ve met him a few times for coffee or lunch. He now attends group therapy, and is in good standing with his probation officer.

The last time I saw him, he asked if he could spend the holidays with me and my family. I was unprepared to answer, and told him I would talk to my husband about it, knowing that my husband would probably have a problem with it.

I am incredibly uncomfortable with my brother being in my house with my three teenage kids present, two of which are girls.

I don’t fully trust him yet, and while I believe in forgiveness, I am scared at the consequences of having him in my house. And I also don’t want to be nervous the entire time he’s in our house, if we do invite him over, which would add more stress to the holidays.

My husband said he will support whatever decision I make, but I’m not sure what to do. What do you think?

— Worried Sister

Dear Worried Sister: Your brother might believe that he is ready to enter your family circle in this way, but you are not ready, and your instincts are telling you that this is not a good idea, and that’s the only thing that matters.

You have been willing to have your brother in your life in a protected, tangential way, and I believe that both your motivations and your instincts are solid. Pay attention to your instincts.

Given the serious and violent nature of his crime, and the fact that he is a sex offender, you should not expose your children to him unless and until you feel completely ready (and you might never feel ready).

I assume that contact with family members could help him reintegrate into life in a way that would be positive for him, but all decisions concerning contact should be yours, not his, to make.

Don’t let the awkwardness of saying “no” override your parental instincts. Tell him, “I’m not ready to have you with us. We’ll just have to see how things go for you over time, and my husband and I will continue to think about it.”

It would be good if both you and your husband could bring him a gift and spend a little time with him during the holiday season.

Dear Amy: I’m a survivor of childhood incest, and fairly certain I know who perpetrated the abuse. I’ve suffered the repercussions throughout my life (nightmares, sexual dysfunction, multiple failed relationships, a much lighter wallet due to years of therapy), but I have no actual memory of the abuse aside from brief flashes with no clear image of the person responsible, despite finding pictures of myself as a child in clearly compromised positions.

Part of me wants to share my story, to speak out and let people know how close #metoo hits home and that life after abuse is possible, if not always pretty, but doing so would bring a spotlight on other relatives, and theirs is not my story to tell.

Besides which, how can you accuse someone of something when you don’t remember what happened, and the person can no longer defend themselves?

Aside from continued therapy and psychotropic medication, do you have any advice?

— A Friend

Dear Friend: I applaud your strength and recovery. Keep going.

Your sensitivity regarding this is commendable.

If you believe that other family members were abused (for instance, if you also see compromising photos including them), you should invite them to join you in a therapy session. And yes, if it would further your recovery (and certainly if it would protect others), you should definitely out the people who didn’t protect you, although you can’t blame your abuser, if you don’t know who it was.

Contact Amy Dickinson at:

askamy@amydickinson.com