With the increasing amount of reliance on on-the-spot videotaping or picture taking, the rules of consent are evolving, especially for children. Basically, with a few exceptions, it's perfectly legal for strangers to photograph or videotape your child, and they're free to post or publish the images as well. Parents do not have to give their consent or sign a release. However, some states have passed legislation to change that, and school districts do take steps to protect their children.
Editorial Use Is OK
The legal loophole that allows publishing and circulation of photographs and video images of children is the First Amendment. It protects both freedom of expression and freedom of the press. As long as a photographer uses the images for editorial purposes, and if he took them while your child was in a public setting, they're within the law even if you don't give your consent. Exceptions may exist if the photos or recordings include sexual overtones.
School Districts Protect Children
States and municipalities have the right to make their own laws regarding issues such as photographing children. School districts can restrict filming and photography on their grounds and the use of images without parental consent. However, some schools might not prohibit group photos if the photographer doesn't identify any of the children when he publishes them, or photos of certain extracurricular activities such as sporting events.
State Laws Are Changing
As of 2012, at least two states have considered legislation to make it illegal to photograph children without parental permission. Georgia passed a bill in 2010 that makes it illegal for anyone but a parent to photograph or videotape a child, but the law may be revised to specifically address registered sex offenders. New Jersey began working on a similar law in 2011.
Other Laws May Apply
Some other state and federal laws might apply if anyone photographs or films your child without your knowledge or permission. Your child has the same right to privacy as an adult does. No one can photograph or film your child in a location where he believes he's alone, even if he's alone with his friends. For example, if he's in a sandbox at a public park, a photographer can take his picture. If he's in a sandbox in your fenced-in backyard, the photographer would be violating your child's right to privacy, as well as your own. You can use that to stop distribution of the photograph because the photographer's action is a tort, or behavior that justifies a lawsuit. You might also have a claim for trespassing.
A Children's Rights Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding children is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a children's rights lawyer.