Maternal and child health experts have cautioned parents against taking paternity disputes about their children to social media platforms.
The specialists warned that children whose paternity disputes are social media discussions are not only exposed to stigma and ridicule in the future but also more at risk of psychological and mental health issues when they grow up.
The specialists urged couples to find better ways of dealing with their family issues, especially when it has to do with children, noting that information posted on social media will still be there for many years to come.
According to them, social media does not forget, warning that if children grow up into adulthood and found out on social media that their paternity was under dispute, they will have lots of social and mental health issues to contend with.
The experts, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Solomon Avidime; and a Professor of Paediatrics at the Department of Paediatrics, College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Olugbenga Mokuolu, also said bringing paternity dispute to the social media will create unnecessary tension and pressure in the family.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, Avidime said bringing paternity disputes to the social media will have a psychological effect on the child when he grows up. The gynaecologist said,
“Even if there is no social media, a child that grew up to realise that there is paternity dispute about him, will usually have some psychological issues to deal with.
“Parents must understand that such issues should not be put on social media. What social media does is to spread the information wider and the child will have to deal with a lot of social issues with people, knowing that he or she is involved in a paternity dispute.
“Parents involved in the dispute should avoid going to social media with paternity dispute about their child because of the psychological effect it will have on him or her in future.”
Also citing the psychological effects on the child in the future, Mokuolu said that family issues are not meant for social media, warning parents to stop making their children a subject of ridicule on social media. The paediatrician cautioned,
“I think that we should look at the kind of damage that we might be inflicting upon our children when we make them a subject of ridicule on the social media. Generally, we should shield our families from the relentless assault on social media.
“I think that families should be advised that they owe it a duty to allow children that have come up in between them to have their own normal development.
“In fact, that is a general golden rule. So, as a counsellor, on another level, I would advise that couples should manage their family issues a little more privately. They should seek help from where they can get help; social media does not offer help.”
The researcher further noted,
“And because the social media or the internet doesn’t forget, as somebody grows up – even when these families now make up among themselves – whatever you have there is a permanent scar that everybody connected with such a matter will have to live by.
“Overall, family issues are not meant for social media. You are increasing the pressure upon yourself when you take family issues to social media.
“But we are in the social media age and some people live on the social media. So, when it is good, they reap the benefit of social media and when it is otherwise, they will also live with the consequences of social media.”
He advised couples to protect their children and shield them from attacks on social media.
For those advocating that paternity tests be carried out by hospitals after the delivery of every child, the experts said the business of the hospital is to conduct delivery for pregnant women and not to ascertain the paternity of a child as a routine function.
They, however, said hospitals can carry out a paternity test on a child based on parental request, if there is a paternity dispute.