Trend: Punishing teens by shaming them virally in Social Media

Recently, a video of a mother in the Caribbean twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago beating her 12-year old daughter went viral. It sparked much debate and online conversation about whether corporal punishment is necessary to discipline teens and whether such discipline should be broadcast to the world to see.
That type of  video is not new, however:

  • In Flint, Michigan this month, three adults were arrested after a video of them beating, slapping and yelling at an 11-year old boy was posted on Facebook. The mom’s boyfriend shot the video and posted it to shame the boy for pretending to be a gang member and having bad grades.
  • Last month, a mother recorded her husband beating their 13-year old daughter with a belt after she went missing for 3 days and the girl’s Facebook page revealed she was spending time with boys. The video, shown on World Star Hip Hop, got over 350,000 views.
  • In 2012, a video of a sick mother beating her baby garnered close to 2 million views. Online petitions caused Malaysian police to arrest the woman.
  • Also in 2012, a former official in California was sentenced and is serving three years probation after a neighbor shot the man, Anthony Sanchez, beating up his stepson while teaching him to catch a baseball. The neighbor posted the video on YouTube.
  • That year as well, petitions from online directed a judge to make a decision in a custody over a couple’s daughter after a video of abuse with the mom beating the on went viral and got over 330,000 views on YouTube.

It’s not always the parents posting the videos either.

  • There is the high profile case of  Hillary Adams, a daughter of a judge William Adams, who in 2011 posted a video she recorded in 2004 of her dad beating her. She posted the video on Reddit saying the world should see that he is unfit for the bench. The video got 7.6 million views. Judge Adams lost his judicial election.
Non Violent Shaming 
And beyond videos, we’ve seen the images with teens holding shaming signs their parents make them hold on street corners with some of them circulated on line. Some parents are forcing their kids to hold signs and posting them online to teach their teens a lesson about how dangerous social media is and how fast an image can circulate world wide.

  • Last fall, a California mom made her 11-year old daughter wear a sign and stand on a busy street corner for twerking at a school dance.
  • Last January, a photo of a dad standing next to his daughter with a photo of himself on the front and the words, “Try me”, went viral on Reddit. The dad made his daughter wear the shirt around school for a week as punishment for breaking curfew.
  • There is also that 2012 YouTube video of a dad shooting his daughter’s laptop after she posted things about him on Facebook.
  • Also, in 2012, an Ohio mom changed her daughter’s Facebook cover and profile so the words superimposed on it said, “I do not know how to keep my mouth shut. I am no longer allowed on Facebook or my phone. Please ask why, my mom says I have to answer everyone that asks.” 
  • In August 2012, a South Carolina man mom made her son stand on a street corner with a body placard that read, “”Smoked pot, got caught! Don’t I look cool? Not!” and “Learn from me, don’t do drugs.” 
  •  A Florida teacher was fired  in 2012 after she put dog “cone-of-shame” collars around the necks of tardy students and some of the kids posted the images on Facebook.
  •  In November 2012, Florida parents of a 16-year old made her stand on a street corner with the sign  “I sneak boys in at 3 AM and disrespect my parents and grandparents.”
All of these are attempts from parents to curb teen drinking, sexual activity, bullying or disrespect. Supporters of these shaming methods say that parents and caretakers have few options with unruly teens. 
Many defenders of online shaming point to the fact that they were beaten as a kid and they turned out fine but they leave out the part that no-one saw their beating, especially not a half a million people.  Nonetheless, they also assume the shaming will work.
Shaming doesn’t work
Nonetheless, history proves that these public humiliation punishments don’t always work.
In 2011, a teen boy who was beaten by his uncle in a viral video was later shot and killed in a gang-related incident.  The mom said her son was bullied and teased a lot after the video went viral.
“I regret maybe not being a part of his life a little bit more after the video,” the uncle said after his nephew Michael Taylor was killed.
Clearly, the online beaten didn’t sway Taylor from continuing down that path he was going in anyway, and without more intervention and care, a beating may not be the end of bad behavior. In fact, the viral videos may foster more negative outcome than good.
When kids compare extreme punishments to those their peers receive for similar offenses, they might feel singled out and treated unfairly by their parents, which can create feelings of resentment and damage the relationship, a NannyWebsites post states. This could lead to further acting out, which results in a no-win power struggle.
“Teaching kids to be respectful includes treating them with respect,” says Annie Fox, M.Ed., teen/tween expert and parenting author o” Teaching Kids to be Good People”.  “Disrespect is a boomerang.”
Shaming could leave a mark on the teen’s self-esteem and add to depression, anxiety or isolation. A child could feel personally rejected by their own support system, giving them the sense that no one is in their corner and that they lack self-worth. Add to that the potential that the embarrassing punishment itself could lead to teasing and bullying within the child’s social circle and it might very well result in a dangerously alienated young person.
In sum, many of the bad acts the kids are being punished for were known by a relatively small number of people and broadcasting it on the internet lets potentially millions more know. Where is the value in shaming a kid for life for one small lesson, especially when there is no guarantee that it will work?
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