#Opinion

Mother-Son ‘Obscene’ Videos Row: Are Parents Compromising Child Safety?

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The mother-son Instagram reels case, wherein a woman has been accused of shooting and sharing ‘vulgar’ videos with her minor boy, throws up a slew of disturbing and urgent questions relating, but not limited, to the use of social media and access to cyber-safety tools when it comes to minors.

The issue of an adult woman allegedly using her son for content on Instagram, sharing videos of the two enacting gestures with sexual overtones and dancing obscenely, was flagged by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) after their video went viral online.

DCW in a notice to the Delhi Police demanded an FIR against the woman and a further probe into other sexual abuses the child could possibly have faced. More on the case here.

Are there enough safety checks in place on social media platforms to ensure minors are physically, mentally, emotionally secured from abuse and harassment? How can children be protected, when exploitation doesn’t come from social media, but from their guardians, like in this case? If, even without direct access to these video apps, young children are heavily exposed to and initiated into profanity, on whom does the onus of rectification lie? Parents or tech gurus? What curbs are in place to deter parental exploits that reduce the value of living, breathing kids to pieces of prop and lead to their sexualisation? And for what? A couple extra likes, a few moments of fame.

Mother-Son Instagram Reels Case Is Not An Isolated Incident

“The child in question, who appears to have been sexualised at such an early stage and is being taught to objectify his own mother, shall, if not checked today, be prone to objectifying other women as well and may develop a criminal mentality,” DCW observed in their notice.

The notice raises an important point regarding sexualisation of young children on social media. While it was blatantly overt in the mother-son Instagram reels case, a sea of content lies online where young kids – either inclined or pushed into video-making by their parents – are going down similar roads. By aping adult mannerisms, talking about issues far beyond their sensibilities, lip-syncing to songs with horridly offensive lyrics, donning costumes purposefully risqué, children are being forced to mature faster that nature intends them to.

This content often deemed harmlessly cute possesses the ability to turn obnoxiously distasteful very quickly.

There are child influencers whose accounts, run by parents or guardians, exhibit edited photos upon heavily filtered videos tailored to fit squarely into Instagram trends and toxic beauty standards. Is the lure of online popularity so potent that adults are ready to forgo the consent of children by exposing them to an unknown, unsafe world? Even if they give it, is children’s consent really true consent in the absence of due competence for decision-making? It will, at best, be assent.

The waters of social media are murky enough for adults trying hard to navigate successfully, braving the infestation of trolls and abuse. Must vulnerable children be inaugurated into it prematurely?

Views expressed are the author’s own.