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  • Writer's pictureIan Miller

Is taking pictures of children on the street illegal?

Many people enjoy taking photos of children in public places, such as parks, playgrounds, or streets. They may do so for artistic, journalistic, or personal reasons. However, some parents or carers may be concerned about the privacy and safety of their children and wonder if such photography is legal or ethical.

The answer to this question may depend on several factors, such as the location, the purpose, and the content of the photos. Different countries and regions may have different laws and regulations regarding photography and the rights of children and adults.

In general, there is no law that prohibits taking photos of children in public spaces without their or their parent's permission. This is because public spaces are usually considered to have no reasonable expectation of privacy, and anyone can take photos of anything they can see from a public place. This applies to both adults and children.

However, this does not mean that all photos of children in public places are legal or acceptable. There are some exceptions and limitations to this rule, such as:

- If the photo is taken on private property, such as a school, a shopping mall, or a home, the photographer may need to obtain permission from the owner or occupant of the property. Otherwise, they may be trespassing or violating the property rights of others.

- If the photo is used for commercial purposes, such as advertising or selling products or services, the photographer may need to obtain a model release from the child or their parent or guardian. Otherwise, they may be infringing on the child's right to publicity or privacy.

- If the photo is obscene, pornographic, or sexually exploitative of the child, the photographer may be committing a criminal offence and violating the child's right to dignity and protection. This may include photos that show nudity, sexual activity, or sexualized poses of the child. The definition of what constitutes such photos may vary depending on the context and the law of each country or region.

- If the photo is harmful, abusive, or harassing to the child, the photographer may be liable for civil damages or criminal charges. This may include photos that cause emotional distress, defamation, bullying, stalking, or intimidation to the child.

Therefore, before taking photos of children in public places, photographers should be aware of the legal and ethical implications of their actions. They should respect the rights and wishes of the children and their parents or carers and avoid taking photos that may be offensive, intrusive, or harmful to them. They should also be careful about how they store, share, or publish their photos and ensure that they do not expose the children to any risks or dangers.

If you are a parent or carer of a child who has been photographed in public without your consent and you are unhappy about it, you may have some options to deal with it. For example:

- You can politely ask the photographer to stop taking photos of your child or to delete any photos they have taken. You can explain your reasons and concerns and try to reach an agreement with them.

- You can report the photographer to the authorities if you believe they have broken any laws or regulations regarding photography or child protection. You can provide any evidence you have, such as the photos themselves, witnesses' statements, or the photographer's identity.

- You can seek legal advice from a lawyer if you want to pursue any civil or criminal action against the photographer. You can claim compensation for any damages you or your child have suffered as a result of the photos.

Taking photos of children in public places is not illegal per se but it can raise some legal and ethical issues. Photographers should be respectful and responsible when taking such photos and parents or carers should be vigilant and proactive when protecting their children's rights and interests.

Besides the legal issues, there are also ethical issues to consider when photographing children in public. Some children, parents, or carers may not be comfortable with images of themselves or their children being shared online or elsewhere. They may have various reasons for this, such as:

- They may have experienced abuse or trauma and worry about being traced or identified by their perpetrators.

- They may have chosen not to have contact with some members of their family and want to minimise their online presence.

- They may have religious or cultural beliefs that prohibit or discourage photography.

- They may value their privacy and personal dignity and feel violated by unwanted photography.

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