It’s a sad fact that the very same child who clung to you like a leech and always had to have you within viewing distance will one fine day grow up and want you to keep your distance. It’s difficult to come to terms with the bitter truth that you are no longer the centre of their universe. Their world has expanded and the sights and sounds of this brave new world are as intoxicating as they are bewildering.
Against their better judgement, parents must learn to step back and let go. Most important of all, the parent must not enter this world without permission. Nowhere is this more relevant than on social media platforms. A friend of mine who is a gregarious creature made the cardinal mistake of accepting the friend requests of her teenage daughter’s pals. Her faux pas was soon pointed out to her and her cries of innocence were drowned in the torrent of tips on unacceptable behaviour from a parent. She now had a choice: keep her daughter happy or expand her friend list. Being a reasonably intelligent being, she opted for the former.
One [parent] says it’s no big deal and she can understand her child’s point of view, another says that as a responsible parent, whenever she posts a picture of her son, she makes sure that she mentions it is with his consent.
Apparently, parents invading their children’s online space is quite common. Sometimes they have actually been befriended online by their kids, who have no idea of the can of worms they are opening with this impulsive act. Mums and even dads have been known to share “embarrassing” photographs of their children as infants in stages of undress, which might evoke fond memories for the parents but only succeed in making the ‘model’ cringe at the thought of this candid shot being viewed by his or her friends who are not known for their discretion or reticence when it comes to reacting to any situation.
Rules for social engagement
Many children who have been embarrassed by the actions of doting parents have begun laying down the rules for social engagement. No pictures to be shared online unless the permission of the child is taken. If the parent baulks at this, the alternative is being blocked by your child. Believe me, that is not a nice experience. Another rule to remember is to avoid gushing over your child online or, even worse, tagging them in your post. While he or she may be the apple of your eye, always keep in mind that when it comes to outbursts of feelings, less is more.
So, the basic rules for parents who want an online presence in their children’s lives is no posting pictures without consent, no tagging on gushy posts, no commenting on any posts or pictures by the child or the comments by friends. Best to stay a silent spectator. Infringement of these rules may result in the parent being blocked in order to avoid social embarrassment, a fate worse than death for a teenager.
What I find particularly interesting is the reactions of some parents to these rules. While one says it’s no big deal and she can understand her child’s point of view, another says that as a responsible parent, whenever she posts a picture of her son, she makes sure that she mentions it is with his consent. Now these are pragmatic parents. They have accepted the reality and the dangers of alienation and are willing to be circumspect in order to share the lives of their children.
Isn’t this better than being sued by your child? Yes, this is a possibility too. In 2016, an 18-year-old Austrian girl filed a suit against her parents for violation of her personal rights by posting her photos on Facebook without asking her. And in 2018, a court in Rome ruled that a 16-year-old boy could lawfully request for removal of his pictures posted by his mum on Facebook!
— Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.