Few laws specifically prohibit neighbors or strangers from videotaping or even photographing children without parental consent. Depending on the situation, circumstances and intent, the neighbor could be in violation of other state and federal laws that are designed to protect children and privacy. Regardless of the law or intent, parents do have the right to ask that their children not be videotaped. Consider the neighbor’s motive for videotaping your child; then take appropriate action if necessary.
Public vs. Private Property
In most states, it is legal to photograph or videotape anyone in a public place, provided the camera is out in the open and footage is not obtained by deceitful methods. This means that if you and your child are at the park or walking down the street, the neighbor passing by could videotape. In the same scenario, the neighbor could not hide around a corner or in a tree to videotape the interaction at the park. There is no law pertaining to videotaping the child in the neighbor’s home, such as at a birthday party; however, the neighbor should ask for consent. Two states, Georgia (in 2010) and New Jersey (in 2011), have passed bills making it illegal for anyone other than a child's own parents to videotape children.
Violation of Privacy
If the neighbor is videotaping your child on private property, such as outside in the child’s yard, state privacy laws would prevent this from being acceptable. Videotaping your child without consent would be a violation of general privacy laws, as well as those specific to minors. The exact law varies by state; however, all cases would prohibit videotaping in areas where a person would normally expect privacy such as in the bathroom, bedroom, in the house with blinds drawn or in an enclosed, fenced yard.
Videotaping a child under certain circumstances is against the law, with or without consent. For example, if the child was unclothed or engaging in sexually suggestive poses. Peaking in someone’s home through windows is also against the law. Depending on the nature and methods of obtaining the video, the neighbor could be in violation of stalking or harassment laws. Some states have additional laws pertaining to the use of video recordings, such as making it illegal to publically post videos without consent of the parties, including children.
Unless the videotaping is pornographic or obviously illegal, first try asking the neighbor to stop. Explain that you are not comfortable having your child videotaped. If you have asked that your child not be videotaped and the neighbor continues, check with local law enforcement to determine if the videotaping violates any criminal or civil laws in your state. Contact law enforcement immediately if there is any physical or emotional threat to you or your child.