Free-Range Kids

France Won't Let Parents Post Pictures of Kids: Predators Might See Them

Child rapists don't often browse Facebook for potential victims.


Child photo

The French have just done something seemingly impossible: They have become more hysterical about sex than les Americains. 

Police there are exhorting parents not to post picture of their children online. Why? Well, unflattering photos could embarrass them when they get a little older, of course. But the police also warn that somehow these images could attract sexual predators. As The Verge reports

"Protect your children!" France's national gendarmerie wrote in a Facebook post last month, warning of the recent "Motherhood Challenge" viral campaign that encouraged users to post photos of themselves with their kids. "You can all be proud moms and dads to your magnificent children, but be careful," the post continues. "We remind you that posting photos of your kids to Facebook is not without danger!" A regional branch of the gendarmerie went even further, imploring parents in all-caps to "STOP" the practice altogether. 


How likely is it that predators are actually perusing Facebook, thanking heaven for little girls (or boys), and eagerly planning to pounce on the very cutest ones? 

Not too likely, says David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. "We look at a lot of cases of crimes against children that involve some internet component, and I can't think of a case we've run across that uses that scenario," he told me. 

So what are the French police getting wrong? Says Finkelhor: "The point I've made is that child molesters are not using the internet like an L.L. Bean Catalog, where they leaf through the pages and then say, 'That's a good one!' That's not a high yield strategy." 

In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, French internet law expert Éric Delcroix said it's likely that baby photos published today could lead to lawsuits years from now. Under French privacy law, anyone convicted of publishing and distributing images of another person without their consent can face up to one year in prison and a fine of €45,000. [That's almost $50,000.] That would apply to parents publishing images of their kids, as well. Viviane Gelles, an attorney specializing in internet law, tells the newspaper that French law makes clear that "parents are charged with protecting the image of their children." 

So even though Americans seem obsessed with predator panic, at least we haven't passed a law forbidding parents from posting pictures of their sweet little, how you say? jailbait.