News @ AsiaOne

Share with care

Parents fond of updating details of their child's life online should be mindful that it may embarrass him or put him at risk with predators. -ST
Eve Yap

Tue, Mar 12, 2013
The Straits Times

A screen grab of a post on cheekiemonkie.net, where blogger Kelvin Ang updates details of his children's lives.

Daddy blogger Kelvin Ang jests in a Feb 18 post that he had been "ruthless in sharing" his son Ayden's fall into the school pond a month earlier.

So much so the six-year-old has been "busy fielding questions about his free-fall" into the knee-deep pond, especially during the Chinese New Year period last month.

But Mr Ang, 36, a financial planner, does not think he has crossed the line. In fact, he says he had told his son that the post on cheekiemonkie.net was a "learning point".

"I told him we cannot control how people react, for example, when they laugh at him. But it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with him - accidents happen to anyone."

The boy, the second of three children, now has a ready answer for anyone who asks how he fell. As he says on his father's blog: "I don't want to talk about it."

While Mr Ang says his son brushes off the post as harmless, not all children in the same situation would feel the same way.

Just ask Krysh Chainani, eight. He has a different take on one of his mum's intended post of a misadventure on her blog, Universal Scribbles. "I don't need the whole world to know," says Krysh.

He is the elder of two children of freelance writer Meiling Wong-Chainani and business director Tarun Chainani, both 41.

The mishap did not make it online because he requested privacy. It happened last year when he was playing spy with his friends. He had accidentally lodged a piece of magnet too deep into his ear.

A hospital visit later and the magnet, the size of a watch battery, was dislodged and given to him as a "souvenir", recalls Mrs Wong-Chainani.

"I thought it was hilarious," she says.

Her son felt otherwise. "It's a little embarrassing for me, especially the question I asked daddy later, 'Am I going to die?'"

His mother refrained from sharing it in cyberspace.

If pre-teens can feel the sting of embarrassment, what more teenagers?

Professor Tan Cheng Han, chairman of the Media Literacy Council, says tweens and teenagers are self-conscious because they are uncertain about their place in the world and are trying to figure out their identity. And their peers can be mean.

He adds: "While adults have a greater ability to poke fun and laugh at ourselves, children may be mortified by similar incidents because their friends and schoolmates may ridicule them."

The Wall Street Journal last year coined the term "sharenting" for parents who report anything from their kids' poop to pets online.

Are today's young parents guilty of "over- sharenting" on social media and thus compromising their children's privacy and even safety?

Prof Tan says: "Anything that can give potential predators the opportunity to piece together a composite picture of a child is too much information."

So information and photographs that "identify the child with a particular place" such as his school, or his interests such as online games and his username, would be "useful to predators who wish to befriend the child", adds Prof Tan.

This is why Mr Ang, like other bloggers SundayLife! spoke to, decline to give information on where they live or their children's schools.

In a digitally connected world, "it is hard to stop 'sharing-itis' altogether," says Trend Micro's regional director for digital marketing and consumer business, Mr Terrance Tang, 39. But share only if you will tell the same information with someone face to face.

For actor-host Suhaimi Yusof, 44, and his wife Siti Yuhana, 43, not sharing is the best policy. His being a public figure already make their three teenagers more recognisable, says Suhaimi. "Would we want to add more misery to my children's lives by exposing their details to the public online?" he asks. "I constantly remind each member of my family not to post anything that is connected to our 'internal affairs' online."

Actress Karen Tan does not mind using Instagram and Facebook to "show a little snippet of something silly or good that's happened to myself or my family" to bring a smile to friends' faces.

The mother of two daughters, aged 17 and eight, says: "Because I choose to put up photos and little bits of information online, I understand that, sometimes, my privacy will be compromised."

She ensures, however, that there are no photos that compromise her children. "No matter how innocent the activity, if a child is sitting, say, with the underwear showing, the photo does not go up. I can't stop people with bad intentions. But I can stop myself from putting up anything that may tempt them."

Meanwhile, Mrs Wong-Chainani has mended her online ways. Since last year, she no longer tags her locations on FourSquare or grumbles on Facebook if her son's handwriting upsets her.

"I am conscious that my children will live in a technological future - and what I put out there now should not be anything that can be used against them later."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

 
 
 
Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.
Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise