Parents shaming their own children on social media is a disturbing trend. Guest columnist Robbyn Peters Bennett urges people not to tolerate or cheer this phenomenon.
THERE is an alarming trend of parents publicly shaming their children on social media. This virtual form of public stocks has now contributed to a young girl’s suicide right here in Tacoma.
How did this even start? Maybe it began with those seemingly innocuous Facebook posts like a toddler flailing on the floor and his mother earnestly defending herself, “I wouldn’t let him eat dog food!”
It made me chuckle at the time, reminding me of snapchats from my daughter of my grandson’s escapades. I love these 10-second images of her catching him in the dishwasher or stuffing as many toys as possible into the toilet. These are sweet moments where my daughter and I can laugh and she can vent over the relentless madness of toddlers.
Sharing these stories makes parenting tolerable. So I understand why parents might want to post these pictures. But sadly, some posts get passed around beyond the safety net of families who adore these children. Sites have cropped up with countless pictures of children in distress with dismissive comments. The problem is, these aren’t snapchats. They don’t disappear in 10 seconds.
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Parents are losing it. They are recording themselves shooting their child’s computer, hitting their children, cutting their hair in humiliating Benjamin Button styles, forcing them to hold signs with forced confessions and labels of self hatred. Many of these posts have gone viral with the Internet community cheering on like a vicious mob. Pages of applause and vile hatred toward children follow these posts. Cultural hatred of children is vomited up uncensored in a way we only see in the anonymous world of social media.
It is one thing to commiserate with the frustrations of parenting, it is another to promote a parent’s worse fear, “Yes, your child deserves to be humiliated.” Never trust a mob with someone you love, especially your child. Consider what happens to a child who watches their picture float around the Internet with an ovation of applause for their parents’ cruelty. Look at the blank, zoned-out expression on their faces. I see pain, humiliation and hatred. Even more disturbing, sometimes I see nothing. The child has drifted away. Shame is an enduring experience that can last a lifetime. It plants the seed, “Who I am is bad.” For some, like the young girl whose father forcefully cut off her hair, the shame was so unbearable that suicide felt like her only option. Suicide — the ultimate act of shame.
Even if we survive it, we still may carry shame into adulthood — especially into parenthood. Now I not only worry that I am not good enough, I worry that my children are not either. I fear they are bad when they tantrum or lie or disobey. Shame drives so many of us. It poisons our connection to our children driving them further away from us into the world without our guidance or protection.
As onlookers, we need to step forward to protect children from being hurt in our online communities. That is why my friends and I started a campaign to persuade Facebook to amend their user agreement, which prohibits harassment and bullying, to include one’s own children. We want to encourage parents to find better ways to teach their children, ways that are proven to work. We know shame doesn’t. Please StopShamingKids.com.