I’m calling the growing parenting trend of publicly shaming children on social media “digi-punishment.” Some recent examples that went viral are the dad who berated his daughter’s behaviour and then used his gun to shoot her laptop. 40 million views on YouTube.
Another was posted by a mom who decide to deal with her daughter’s skipping classes by following her around the hallways of her school harassing her with the camera rolling, so she could post and publish. Again, widely circulated and mass humiliation.
I thought these were two extreme and abnormal situations, but it seems more and more digi-punishments are posted every day. Just yesterday, a Denver mom posted a controversial video of shaming her 13-year-old daughter for posting provocative photos on Facebook while claiming she’s 19.
Was she mimicking these earlier viral posts? Do parents think this is acceptable? Clearly some do, judging from the comment sections. Some say that the parents doling out the punishments are “heroes” for putting their foot down with their children.
But they're not and this has got to stop.
Listen, I am the first one to understand that in the digital age, cameras are always rolling. Privacy is being redefined all the time.
Believe me, if you had every moment of my parenting career on video, you could find footage of me acting in ways I regret. We are all human, we all make mistakes.
But the incidents that I am discussing were not moments captured haphazardly. They are crafted social media content produced by parents for the sole purpose of humiliating their children as the punishment for their transgressions.
Here's a more offensive thought: could the parents have hopes that the posts go viral to serve as their own personal “claim to fame” on the internet? Is the lure of one million (or 40 million!) views a motivator? I shudder at the concept.
Let me try to educate those parents who are impressed with this punitive method.
Punishment Is Harmful
First, some parents have the mistaken idea that if the punishment hurts sufficiently, children will change their behaviour out of fear. Those parents who believe in public shaming may even report their methods were successful because the child does indeed cease the behaviour in question. But at what cost?
From a psychological perspective, children require their parents provide what attachment theorists call a “secure base.” Parents need to provide empathy and compassion while helping guide and discipline the child.Children look to their parents to reflect back to themselves their worth and lovability.
When we shame and humiliate a child, the very secure base that is supposed to be giving them their sense of worth, love and acceptance is now hurting them and serving up a plate of pain.
The greater the shame, the wider the reach, the more the child is likely to deduce that they are not lovable, worthy, perhaps they even believe they are dirty, lowly, despicable. Why would you not believe your most trusted source?
Yes, this may stop their behaviour, but now they have been harmed by parental mistreatment. Feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness creates a tear in the fabric of their being that follows them into adulthood.
When as adults, they become parents and their children don’t listen, challenge their parenting competencies and skills by refusing to listen, comply or do as they are told, an adult survivor of shame can be triggered. These old hurts re-surface and the parent tries to cope by safe-guarding with such reactions as defensiveness and being punitive.
So the baton is passed to the next generation.
A parent with a strong ego strength -- someone who is secure in a sense of self-worth -- is less threatened by the antics and carrying on of their children and are more capable of implementing sound discipline without being emotionally triggered.
Treat A Child As You Would A Friend
These parents excuse their shaming, convincing themselves that it was just a parenting tactic, as if “anything goes” when it comes to the treatment of a child. Not so.
Digi-punishment illuminates the need for social equality in all relationships. I don’t mean that children and parents are equal, but I do mean that all humans are equally deserving of being treated respectfully, regardless of gender, race, religion, ability or age!
If you shouldn’t hit a fellow adult, you shouldn’t hit a child. If you shouldn’t shame a friend then don’t shame your children. Simple as that!
If these videos were posted by peers, we would recognize them immediately as cyber-bullying.
What Can We Do?
I may not be able to convince every parent of the hidden cost of punishment, and I may not have everyone’s ear on the vast number of alternative approaches to discipline -- but I can make an appeal to the rest. At a minimum, let’s not be the audience to this abuse.
As bystanders who watch, we “vote” with our viewership. The more clicks and views, the more shame. Next time -- just hit delete.
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