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Commentary

On an anxiety roller coaster with WhatsApp

Alerts about events at my child's school are great but why isn't she in group photos?

Parents with school-going children must be familiar with the conveniences offered by WhatsApp parent group chats.

I've allowed myself to be added to two WhatsApp chat groups created by the parents of my daughter's schoolmates.

I soon discovered that these friendly instant alerts have also been responsible for the oh-so-many panic attacks I've had since my daughter started Primary 1 on Jan 4.

But I found myself relishing the growing list of benefits the app can provide for busy parents like me.

Among the benefits: I'm alerted to every development at school - be it what attire the kids should wear on certain days, how much food to pack for recess, the forms parents have to sign or a spelling test notice. It has even kept me abreast of what's being posted on the school's online portal without my having to log into it.

I've always found the school portal to be unwieldy, and would avoid logging into it if the school hadn't insisted that parents must sign off electronically on e-letters about school announcements.

A glitch that locked me out of the system for a few days contributed to my reluctance to use it too. But, even then, I didn't miss any important notice. The WhatsApp group chats zipped back and forth as always with prompt updates.

Sleuth-like parents have even on occasion sent out WhatsApp alerts weeks before the official e-letter goes out on the portal.

The sharing of photos is also a boon, although I'm troubled every time I see pictures of my child's classmates huddled together at the monkey bar or in the canteen, and she is not in them.

Parents are barred from the school compound except on Wednesdays, when "recess mums" organise activities for the children during their once-a-week extended recess. That is how pictures of the children are taken and shared.

It doesn't help that my daughter often tells me her classmates have said nasty things to her. Anxious about her social development, I probe for the names of her best friends daily, but the answer has always been "I don't know".

She seems cool about her friends, or the lack thereof, but the news has put my mind on a roller coaster. Was she bullied? Why did she go to the library by herself when she could have hung out with the others at the monkey bar, which happens to be her favourite exercise?

I'm eagerly waiting for the next round of photograph-sharing. Hopefully, I will see my daughter interacting with her friends.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'On an anxiety roller coaster with WhatsApp'. Print Edition | Subscribe