One has to be cautious considering that many things are happening in the world these days and how ones’ privacy is so easily compromised over social media today. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

  • Endangering children without accurate protective action.
  • Teaching parents to say no to strangers wanting to pick up or hold their children.
  • Exposing children to the probability of cyber crime.

In the past three weeks, there have been two instances where complete strangers approached me, wanting to take a picture with my toddler.

Recently, my family and I went to Dubai Creek Park for a picnic with our cousins. While leaving the park, we were waiting for our car at the gate. Ours was a large group and we were talking to each other when out of nowhere, a man and a teenage boy came to us. The man spoke in Arabic to the men in our group. We tried to explain to him that we didn’t understand the language. He continued talking. Perhaps he hadn’t understood that we had no idea what he was trying to tell us. His tone seemed casual. He then looked at my son and his cousin, both, just two years old.

Fear of being called reactionary

My cousin thought he was trying to let us know that he found our children cute and told him their names. Just then, he bent down and tried to lift my cousin’s son. The child started crying since it was a stranger. He then turned to lift my son. I wasn’t happy, I felt uncomfortable and even a little helpless when others especially elders in the family didn’t seem to be bothered by it. I didn’t want to be told I was over-reacting.

Suddenly, he turned and asked the boy to click a picture of him holding my son.

They took a picture and left. We were all left wondering why he wanted a picture. Why did he take it?

It was all the more suspicious that he had crossed two rows of parked cars to come to us. We spent a long time discussing this incident that night and said we should never let it happen again.

Sadly, I had a similar encounter during the National Day weekend at a theme park. I had taken my son to the washroom to change his diaper when a young Hindi-speaking woman saw him and said: “How cute, I need to take his photo.”

I thought, “not again” and wanted to tell her no but by then she was already trying to lift him. This time he refused. Not wanting to sound rude, I just told her he may cry since he doesn’t like being held by people he isn’t familiar with. However, she didn’t seem to get the message or give up. I took him in my arms hoping she would back off, but as soon as I picked him up, she came and stood next to me and posed and clicked a picture and finally went on her way.

Didn't want to sound rude!

I felt horrible that I could not raise my voice in objection. I was overcome by a fear of being questioned why and then judged as being rude, silly or over-protective. I felt very awkward and still wish I had stood my ground, even if I lost a debate with her. It would’ve been better than losing my mind over why she wanted to click a picture with a complete stranger. Maybe she had nothing harmful in mind, but what if she did?

One has to be cautious considering the many things are happening in the world these days and how ones’ privacy is so compromised over social media today.

It is my humble request to all readers, if you are someone who has a habit of clicking pictures with children whom you don’t know, but find cute, kindly stop doing so - because today it’s you and you may have no bad intention in mind, but tomorrow it could be someone trying to exploit a child and the child would not be able to tell the difference between the two.

Stand up for your children

Parents, I urge you to be prepared for a situation like this so that when faced with a similar situation, you may firmly yet politely (if that’s possible) refuse for the simple reason that you are not comfortable with your child being photographed by a stranger — just like they wouldn’t like to be photographed with a stranger. Adult or child , you need to respect ones’ privacy. If they still insist, pick up the nerve to be nice and insist you do not agree because you do not know them (or their intentions) and walk away.

I am a mother, and I am not fine with a stranger wanting to click a photo with my children. It feels very awkward and hence should not even be requested of a parent.