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What The Media’s Sickening Obsession With ‘Star Kids’ Is Doing To Children Across The Country

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Gauri Khan’s recent Instagram post drew a severe backlash from the public as well as several media outlets. The reason? Khan’s 17-year-old daughter can be seen sporting a bikini.

This is not the first time Suhana Khan’s pictures have gone viral for wearing beach-appropriate clothing. Back in March 2016, a picture of the teenager vacationing was subject to similar public scrutiny. Media outfits have not held their tongues and called the young girl ‘jaw-droppingly hot’ and described her sun tanned back as ‘sexy. The comments drawn by these pictures are unflattering and distasteful.

The life of an average teenager indulging in similar activities is usually spared from such widespread dissection. Then why must star-kids, by the mere virtue of their birth, have to undergo such intense, embarrassing and unrestricted inquisition for simply acting their age?

In a country where the right to privacy had been a debated issue until recently, celebrities have never even stood a fighting chance. Their career choices seemed to have rendered them less entitled to a life away from the public eye. Celebrity children are embroiled in the same mess that their parents have learnt to ignore after spending several years in the limelight. We could argue that the loss of such privacy is a natural exchange for the privilege of belonging to an industry that thrives on nepotism, but it is undeniable that these youngsters deserve a lot more privacy and freedom to live their life. They should not be bearing the brunt of their parents’ reputation.

Parents And Star Kids Are Learning To Adapt To This Intense Scrutiny

Star-kids lead sheltered lives but they are well aware of the repercussions of their sheer existence on social media platforms. Taking a leaf out of their parents’ books, they have learnt to develop a thick skin and the courage to fight back. Suhana Khan has made her Instagram account private to keep prying eyes away. Sridevi’s younger daughter Khushi, who enjoys an active social media presence, was recently a victim of body shaming. The girl fought back, giving a befitting response to all her haters. Aalia Ebrahim, the daughter of Pooja Bedi, was a victim of slut-shaming. She too aptly shut the trolls down with her explanation of the idea of consent. These girls are out there to prove that the lack of freedom of expression and privacy is not the price they will pay for social mobility. The fact that they’re having to do so is itself indicative of the media’s disregard for their privacy.  

The parents are equally irked by such insensitive breakdown of their children’s lives. They have adopted different means of dealing with it. Shah Rukh Khan openly condemned the unwarranted media attention bestowed on Suhana’s clothes. Sridevi’s older daughter, Jhanvi, was spotted sharing a moment with her alleged then-boyfriend, and it was not long before those photographs started doing the rounds on the internet. In what came across as an angry retort, Sridevi clarified that her daughter wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend. Shweta Nanda, on the other hand, advocated her daughter’s privacy and attempted to part reason-with and part guilt the media when they went after Navya Naveli Nanda. Nanda used the space in her column to depict her daughter as more than her media portrayal. While stating that her daughter has a “strong sense of self”, she went on to draw attention to the plight that such nonsensical journalism might cause to an impressionable, young girl.

However, The Coverage Goes On To Impact Teens Everywhere

The media might be targeting star-kids but teens everywhere are more than likely to feel the heat of it. Youngsters have a large social media presence and extensive media consumption. We live in a society where seemingly fancy Instagram and Facebook posts act as social currency for the ordinary teenager. One on hand, teenagers face the pressure of having to keep up with their peers. Most of the time, they use social media to prove their “social worth”. At this age, being “uncool” attracts social stigma and alienation that teenagers severely dread. On the other hand, they fear self-expression using this very same social media for they might meet the same fate as their star-kid counterparts, without having famous and powerful parents to defend their right to freedom and privacy. Ordinary youngsters might not be subject to paparazzi but it cannot be said when an innocent post of theirs might be picked up for being seemingly scandalous. In April, a 17-year-old girl from Rajasthan was shamed for putting up pictures on social media, after a stranger morphed her face onto a naked body. Falling victim to such unwanted publicity would wreak havoc to their self-esteem and shame their existence in stereotypical Indian society.

Media ethics have been defenestrated. In an age where traditional journalism thrives on the defamation of youngsters, it seems hard to reinstate any sort of conscientious principles in reporting. Teenagers are heavily impacted by social media. Such uncalled-for attention delivers a blow to their self-confidence and development. Regulations need to be implemented to protect the privacy of individuals, especially children.

To start with, a bill on the lines of California’s Senate Bill 606, that penalises the photography of children based on their parents’ profession, would give impetus to the cause. Law enforcement agencies need to be trained to handle incidents of social media abuse and understand the gravity of its ramifications. In the meantime, educating teenagers on taking their privacy more seriously and learning to report abuse would be a start.

You must be to comment.
  1. ANURAG SHARMA

    I don’t see this happening anytime soon in India.These stars and their kids (wannabe stars) themselves feed upon media coverage.

  2. ANURAG SHARMA

    Your self discription is a bit flawed!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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