Children of the world
A few years ago, maybe towards the end of the last decade, I remember discreet but urgent requests from young parents to others like them – stop posting your children’s photos on the internet. The fear of child pornography and the knowledge of the empowerment of perverts and pedophiles have been cited as legitimate reasons. Conscious parents have also removed harmless photographs of naked children, once considered the purest form of innocence. The conversation then began on how many of your kids should you put on for the world to see? A world that, surely, was not just cookies and cream, and where all known and unknown dangers were hiding, even inside virtual walls.
This week, powerful couple Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli, demanded their baby’s privacy and even urged the assembled paparazzi not to click on the baby’s photos. It is a concerted effort by the couple to protect the child from media glare and allow them to “live their life freely, away from the media and social networks.” Parents’ attitude is understandable after all, not everyone is a Michael Jackson swinging their child off the balcony for photographers to try. The behavior of those who still used Vamika’s photos for attention is deplorable, and to put it succinctly, cheap!
Unfortunately, the allure of making money with your child is also present today. Take Youtuber Ryan Kaji, 10, who built an empire through his Youtube channel. He is the highest paid Youtube star for three consecutive years, earning $ 30 million last year. For some it’s about keeping their kids out of prying eyes, but for many others it’s about using that same medium to gain a few brand mentions and target a new group of followers. . Anushka and Virat don’t need it, but check out blogging moms who don’t hesitate to share cutesy coils of their offspring. Some influencers hide the real face of the child but still broadcast the rest of the content. I find it really goes against the protection of their privacy because the children have not consented to advertise. But hey, their kid, their show, what do I know?
The question remains however, how much is too much? While the proliferation of shabby websites that misuse photos of children has diminished, in part due to the due diligence measures taken by search engines such as Google, it has not completely disappeared. Children are now also exposed to the outside world with its many charms and drawbacks very early in life. Today, a child is more comfortable with a tablet than a bat. It’s sad but true that parents, while trying to occupy their children, voluntarily handed them their smartphones and tablets so that they could roam the virtual world. The time children spent on the internet obviously increased exponentially during the pandemic. We cannot blame the unhappy parents. Between their own homework and no domestic help during last year’s shutdowns to countless hours of online classes for their children, many parents have taken the easier route – hand over the phone / tablet , let the children play with a few hours, and give the parents their daily rest!
With increased awareness of the internet and social media, many children are now demanding their own social media pages and public accounts. This request makes parents dizzy, as I recently noticed on an acquaintance’s Facebook post. Her child wanted his own Youtube channel and social media page, and the worried parent asked for the opinions of others. And she’s not the only one. There are others who are bewildered by similar requests from their children. Private social media accounts have checks and balances, but public pages allow strangers to access children, unless parents use the pages with a hawk eye. It is also proven by numerous studies, including secret studies conducted by social media giants like Instagram, owned by Facebook, that social media has a negative effect on a child’s mental health. They caused children and teens to develop body image issues which in turn caused anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
There are so many great reasons to be out there in the public space – a platform to express your identity, express your thoughts, showcase your talent, or just have fun. But the dangers outweigh the good ones, as far as children are concerned. Children will have to deal with malevolence and sordid affairs all their adult lives; they shouldn’t have to start in childhood. Proceed with caution and protect the few years of “childhood” should not be an option but persevere with revenge.
The writer is an author and a media entrepreneur. Opinions expressed are personal