Recently, a friend of mine welcomed her bundle of joy into the world. The happy news reached me when I got to see her WhatsApp profile picture － the newborn cuddled in the mother’s arm, with the proud father trying his level best to take an expert selfie that included all three of them. Almost every second day, the profile pictures gave updates about the baby’s development.
New age parents love to show off their children's cute and cuddly pictures through their own social media profiles, by sharing these pictures as attachments to their texts, using digital messaging apps. They may even send such pictures for online competitions for best baby pictures. Nonetheless, we all enjoy such publications of private cuddling moments.
But, there is a dark side to the Internet, which may endanger the privacy of both the child and the parents and land them in deep trouble, if a cybercriminal uses specific sorts of pictures of children for unethical gain. This is because some of these photographs may be consumed as sexually-gratifying contents for perverts; such pictures may also be used to blackmail parents. Let us consider the types of pictures which may invite unwanted trouble for the child as well as the parents:
1. Baby breastfeeding photos: Even though the new age understanding encourages breastfeeding for immunity and better health for the baby through several visual mediums, one should never consider posting such photographs in personal albums on social media, where everyone can see it. This may trigger unwanted comments to the mother as well as the baby. Not to forget, such pictures may also be used as mashed up video materials for the porn industry.
2. Nude baby pictures: Babies look adorable in their chubby little selves. Many parents love to post their babies’ photos while giving a bath or lying naked or in a crawling pose. Not to forget, perverts may consume such photographs as child- porn materials. This is a hard reality we need to consider, especially when we get to hear so many cases of infants as young as three to four months getting sexually assaulted.
3. Up-skirt photos: When children are left to play outdoors, they love to ride high beams, swings, slides and of course, the jungle rides. This gives enough opportunity to expose their innerwear and their thighs. Parents should be careful not to photographs kids in this position, for posting online. Photos of babies with their innerwear covering the private parts, thighs and hips may be used as child porn material. Not to forget, such pictures can be doctored to present obscene and ugly online content.
4. Puberty function photos: In several parts of India, especially in the South, puberty functions are celebrated with pomp and gaiety. Often, the young girl is photographed from several angles, which may look awkward, especially if such pictures are taken by another young cousin or sibling who is not aware of how to handle a camera device properly. In such situations, it is the duty of parents to protect the girl from unwanted exposure to cameras. Such pictures may instantly be circulated to unwanted people and may also be consumed as sexually gratifying contents.
5. Bathing pictures of children: Whether a young child or a matured teen, one should never post pictures of children in wet clothes or in a bathing position. I have a friend who is the mother of a little star swimmer. Learn from her: if at all you need to post pictures of your child, wrap him/her in a towel or put his/her jackets on before clicking the little champ with his medals.
6. Trial room pictures: It is but obvious that an adult generally accompanies a young trendy teen or tween to the changing room for helping her to fit into her chosen attire. Do not to click while she is changing and only in her innerwear. Posting such pictures may actually put the child in danger.
7. Sleeping pictures of babies and children: Young children look heavenly when they are asleep. But they definitely would not look heavenly if their sleeping pictures are doctored to change it as one in compromising position. Parents, therefore, must not post pictures in sleeping position.
8. Babies in their potty chair: New parents love to capture every moment of their babies. But hold on: posting pictures of babies in the potty chair, passing stool or getting dirty should always be avoided. Remember, your child will also grow up and will become a netizen in some time. He will be subjected to humiliation and bullying if the friends get to see such pictures.
9. Photos of nude boys: Remember the famous pose of Ranbir Kapoor in the movie Saawariya where his towel dropped from his waist? While many of us may have enjoyed the film, this particular scene was criticised by some as ‘obscene’. Young boys, just as their female counterparts, are vulnerable to sexual offence if their pictures in the nude surface on the Internet.
10. Self-conscious teens: Never force your awkward and conscious teen to be the subject of your album. Teenagers are well aware of the dangers of the Internet and hence many of them may feel reluctant to be photographed and shown off through their parent’s album. Respect the child’s privacy.
Come December and we are all ready for outdoor picnics. Be careful while posting your family pictures especially with your children in it.
Dr Debarati Halder is the Honorary managing director of Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling. She received her LL.B. from the University of Calcutta, LL.M from Madras University and she did her PhD from NLSIU Bangalore. She is the author of the book Cybercrimes Against Women in India published by Sage (https://in.sagepub.com/en-in/sas/cyber-crimes-against-women-in-india/book253900). More about her research and pro-bono activities can be found @http://www.debaratihalder.org/