Imagine that your child grows up and someday assumes the role of a public figure. Maybe your daughter will run for public office or become a professional athlete or a much beloved teacher. Maybe your son will work for a Christian organization or receive a call to serve in full time ministry. And then imagine how your child's dream can be shattered if pictures emerge on the Web that compromise your child's reputation and question his or her character. Not likely, you say? Think again. With the prevalence of digital cameras and camera phones capable of taking unlimited pictures and video clips, all it takes is one momentary lapse in good judgment. Many a fallen beauty queen, American Idol contestant, politician and public figure can attest to damage done by fallout from little-known or forgotten pictures surfacing on the Web — pictures that were never intended for public viewing.
Below, you will find a set of rules that I require my children to abide by when it comes to pictures and video they may upload to the Web. Feel free to edit or adapt these to fit your preferences. I would begin to go over these rules as each of your children enters middle school, and continue to remind them of the rules as the years progress. Even if your child is not yet allowed to participate in social networking sites, it is not too early to begin to talk about the sites. Your kids may still end up appearing in pictures and video taken and posted by others. You may consider even posting the rules somewhere near your computer so they are not easily forgotten.
As the ability to take pictures and streaming video (even with cell phones) becomes standard, it is more important than ever to teach our children to behave responsibly when taking or posing for pictures and video. The more outlandishly a person behaves in front of the camera, the more likely the footage will surface in the form of a picture in someone else's online album or YouTube video clip. And the last time I checked, the online community numbered over 900 million "members." Talk about incentive to behave!