Badrya Darwish

Lately I've noticed on social media - especially Facebook and WhatsApp - that people are using children under eight to publicize special causes - be they political, commercial, social or fun. Even celebrities sometimes use children to publicize their activities or to entertain. I know in show business, we see children all the time. But what is taking place now, particularly on social media, is unregulated and unsavory.

Children are being used left, right and center, and families are very happy to see their kids become popular and get likes, without thinking about the harm they may be doing to their children. They don't understand that this child will grow up possibly psychologically impacted from the experience.

Imagine a child recorded talking about the horrors of the Syrian conflict. Yes, it's a reality that children are suffering and living in these harsh miseries, unfortunately. But to use him to get attention seems wrong to me. It's abusive to the child because you are in a way stealing the child's innocence. Maybe it's justified sometimes to attract attention to the suffering of children in war zones. But it's a very thin line.

In Hollywood, there are regulations that are meant to protect child actors. But nowadays on social media, what are the protections? I don't think there are any kinds of protections, and on the contrary, families are overexcited to see their kids getting a hundred likes or if their images or videos go viral. All they care about is the likes, not what the child likes. And children pick up on that. And this is the dangerous area.

I have a friend who objected to my ideas. She said she puts her kids on social media all the time, demanding what was upsetting me. I explained to her, on the contrary, that I loved to see her children on Facebook because they are not being used to entertain adults and talk about adult issues. They are either painting or knitting or doing things that kids do, and this will encourage other kids.

There's nothing wrong with children showing their skills and achievements online to a limited degree, like horseback riding, swimming, running, singing or whatever, because this can inspire others to do good things. I'm not objecting to these types of activities or other stuff like that. I'm only objecting to exploiting children to talk about things and to gain a notoriety that can be harmful. Children who gain this kind of attention may be attracted to other harmful things, and will not live their childhood.

So think twice before you publicize your kids.

By Badrya Darwish

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