IT WOULD be helpful for parents to pause for a moment before posting photos of their children on social media, said Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Loo Tsui Huei.
Loo says it is the duty of parents to safeguard their children’s rights, but questions whether parents are actually doing so when it comes to social media.
Loo said, when people talk about sharing photos on social media, they have to be aware of the implications.
“Ignorance can put your child in danger, as we do not have full control pf the photos we share, and children’s photos reveal a lot of information.
“It gives the viewer information about parents’ attitudes towards their children, how much they want to reveal to other people about themselves, how they live their lives as family, in what kind of environment children are being brought up, and what parents do with them during their free time.
“Viewers can analyse a family and children like an open book,” she said.
Loo says it is advisable for parents to ask themselves why they want to post their children’s photos, what the desirable and non-desirable effects are, and whether the photos are appropriate. Children should also be consulted about the photos.
She adds that children should be part of it, and parents must try to understand how photos in social media affect children emotionally and psychologically.
She said for example, some children tell parents that they do not need the whole world to know what they are doing. In other cases children may ask their parents about the comments from others about the photos.
“What I am afraid is that parents may introduce superficiality in relationships during a child’s upbringing, expressing emotions which may not be genuine.
“This can create a tendency in children to seek approval from others or building of self-esteem based on how they look in social media rather than focusing on parents.
“Sometimes I wonder whether people are doing this just to show how good they are as parents at the expense of our children?” she says.
On the issue of safeguarding children’s rights, she asked how would parents feel if photos of their children were uploaded without their permission.
Loo said, personally she would object to it because it boils down to privacy and safety issues as the act is considered disrespectful, violates a person’s privacy, irresponsible, and provocative.
“Are we indirectly telling our children that it is alright to treat others in the same manner?
“Children have feelings, and we need to know how they feel about it, because some children do express discomfort in having their photos on social media.
“If that is the case, parents need to step back, and respect their choices, otherwise there will be communication breakdown between parents and children,” she added.
Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Neurologist Dr Alex Khoo Peng Chuan says it is not only about paedophiles, but also about the life of the child, because as they grow up, they may not like photos of bath time, and such, being seen by strangers or perhaps even worse.
“Some parents, post photos of their sick children, with comments such as ‘Oh poor little xyz is sick again’, this leads to exposure.
“Then there are some parents who post shaming photos, and it carries a lot of negativity, and long-term psychological problems,” he said.
Khoo said private details of birthdays, events, schools and friends could lead to predators seeking children out, especially when they are left with babysitters alone, and so forth.
Then he said group photos could lead to conflicts with other parents, as they never consented to their children being in the photo.
“For unsafe activities, this opens up the child to critics, and may not be immediately evident at first glance,” he added.
Khoo said some things are best kept private, and off social media.
“There should be a law against this, and parents should be made aware of the risks mentioned,” he added.
There were mixed reactions from parents interviewed by MetroPerak about whether they should put up photos of their young children or not.
Housewife N. Redika Kanarasan, 39, said she is aware of the many negative effects and that is the reason she refuse to post any of her children’s photos on Facebook or other social media sites.
She says it is scary what people are able to do with the information they can access.
“With the information they have such as the name, age, they can easily locate the child, and do harm. The worst part is the children will follow them simply for the reason that the person seems to know information about the child, so that makes the child believe them,” she added.
Another parent, who only wished to be known as Elisha said she stopped posting photos of her two daughters about a year ago.
She said, after reading articles about photos of children being found in pornographic sites, she immediately deleted all the photos in social media sites.
“Some of my family members, and relatives, also told me not to upload photos since my girls are young. After reading horrible stories in the newspapers about paedophiles and kidnapping cases, I just stopped uploading anymore photos,” she added.
Parent Sukhbir Cheema, 29, a writer said he does post photos of his little girl, though his profile photo is an image of his daughter edited to look a little bit like Pikachu.
“I did that out of fun, and thought the image looked cute.With Facebook filled with images, videos and news of violence of late, I feel images of babies and children in funny poses like this could make people’s day,” he adds.
Sukhbir feels as long as the image uploaded of a child is decent, people should not submit to fear.
“However, the authorities must be pressured to seek a better understanding of paedophilia. I read somewhere that the Briton, Richard Huckle suffered from severe self-esteem issues.
“Maybe its time to study, and understand these individual, and find ways to assist them,” he added
Sharon Lim, 35, a marketing executive said as long as the photos uploaded do not provide details, and information about the whereabouts of the child, it should be alright to post them on Facebook.
“Of course I will never take a photo of my son in school uniform, showing the school badge, the building and so on, and upload the photo to Facebook.
“Such details must never be visible, but normal photos of the child playing, dressed up in funny costumes, or having their favourite meal, should be alright,” she added.