Net connect: Your child, starring on the world wide web

  • Pankti Mehta Kadakia, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 15, 2015 15:42 IST
Gurgaon-based blogger Vaishali Sharma, 31, with her 18-month-old son. After finding pictures of her baby in a random post about diapers, she now blurs out his face when she posts pictures online. ‘It scared me that someone had trawled through my blog and reused pictures of my son,’ she says.

How much is too much? Where do you draw the line? Kids, and parents, are navigating their way to new normals when it comes to privacy, consumption, and even how the family evolves after divorce.

How much is too much? It’s a question parents are tussling with when it comes to sharing details about their children online. At what point does a large number of followers become a security hazard? How much boasting can you allow yourself before you need to think about how you are impacting other families?

The first of these questions began to worry gynaecologist Munjaal Kapadia, 35, when people started recognising his children from the photos he posted of them online.

“I have more than 6,000 followers each on Twitter and Instagram. And I’m someone who loves to talk about his family,” says the Mumbai-based father of two. “Earlier, it never occurred to me to be discreet. But I have now set down some rules of sharing.”

Kapadia doesn’t reveal the names of his children’s schools; doesn’t post photos of them in the bathtub or in swimsuits; doesn’t post from a public place until they have left it.

“You have to decide for yourself about where you should draw the line of what to share about your family online,” says Dr Samir Parikh, director of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences and National Mental Health Programme at Fortis Healthcare, Delhi. “The ideal is to treat children as adults-in-the-making. Ask yourself what you would be comfortable with finding online from your childhood, and make your decision accordingly.”

That’s what Gurgaon-based blogger Vaishali Sharma, 31, has been doing ever since she stumbled upon photos of her baby boy in a random post about diapers.

“It was nothing harmful, but it scared me that someone had trawled through my blog and reused pictures of my son,” she says.

Sharma has just under 10,000 followers on her blog. Now, if she posts photos of 18-month-old Harshal, she blurs out his face.

“Undoubtedly, it isn’t easy to write about one’s private life in a public space,” says Delhi-based Natasha Badhwar, a filmmaker with three daughters, who writes a weekly parenting column in a national newspaper. “I always find it hard to start, because I know my words will take me to uncomfortable places. The fear of being shamed and ridiculed, the fear of upsetting someone close to me — I deal with them every week.”

While Badhwar remains focused on her family and her writing, Vaishali stopped sharing personal and intimate details after facing a backlash over a column on the pros of breastfeeding.

The other pitfall is the hyper-competitiveness that constant picture-perfect updates can engender.

“If one child wins a medal and her mother posts about it on Facebook or WhatsApp, other parents often get caught up and tell their children they should also participate,” says Suchitra Surve, director of counselling agency Growth Centre. “It could affect the child’s self-esteem if parents begin flaunting their achievements, looking for likes. Children get used to the limelight too and this can affect their personality and social interactions. Parents should use social media to share information with their friends and family, but not take it too seriously.”

“It’s important to remember that what is online is a curated reflection of the family,” says author Kiran Manral, who has been writing a parenting blog for 10 years. “You don’t post the ugly stuff; everyone knows that. And parents deserve to show off a bit. There’s no need to feel threatened.”

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