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Last week a video of a late elementary-aged boy having a violent meltdown went viral. While he is cursing and hitting the girl who is recording the video, she is doing what she can to keep him riled up. Meanwhile, his parents are in the front seat and avoiding being involved.
If you haven't watched it, I suggest you don't. In fact, I'm not even going to link to the video in question. When I watched the video for the first time, my stomach turned. Within a few seconds of hitting play I felt regretful, I knew I was watching a private moment which should have never ended up on the Internet.
No matter the offense of the minor, videos focused on shaming children do not belong on the Internet for many reasons.
Here's the thing, a two-minute video is unable to give the viewer the whole picture. As an employee in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, I often spend my days working with mentally ill adolescents. Because of my work, this video looks very familiar to me. I see behavior like this, from both children and adults, on a regular basis. However, there is something I see in my workplace which this video fails to disclose: the whole picture. I can peek into their chart and see a diagnosis or family history, which may provide an explanation, or at least an understanding, for how they are behaving.
Children should have a choice in whether or not they live their lives and make mistakes publicly.
All we see when we watch this video is his behavior. Without the facts and an understanding of the circumstances of this boy's life, we are forced to try to explain what we are seeing. We have no idea what events led to his behavior, or if he is mentally ill, or has suffered trauma.
Children should have a choice in whether or not they live their lives and make mistakes publicly. No matter how awful a child is behaving, private moments should be just that—private. I shudder at the thought of my most emotional moments as an uneasy and insecure preteen being broadcast for my classmates and friends to see. Yes, the Internet may move fast from video to video, but there is a level of permanence. For a victim of Internet shaming, moving on isn't as simple as finding a new spectacle to watch. The consequences of shaming our children can be devastating and long-lasting.
The truth is, the majority of parents would never consider posting a video as damaging as this one to their Facebook feed. So, what can the average parent learn from video like this one?
I can't help but feel apprehensive about everything I post online about my daughters these days. I also feel concerned about the possibility of someone sharing something about them without their permission. My 1-year-old and 3-year-old aren't able to give consent for their lives to be broadcast online, so how do I know what is and isn't appropriate to share?
I have been asking a few preliminary questions before hitting post these days, and I would encourage other parents to do the same. Questions such as: Am I painting my child in a negative light? Is this a personal or intimate moment better saved for sharing with immediate family? Does this post share information about my child in a way that could jeopardize their safety?
2. Establish boundaries for older children who are online
This video appeared to be posted by an older sibling or a friend, which brings up another important issue for parents of older children. Let's be clear about our rules concerning what belongs on the Internet when setting boundaries. And let's ensure we have expressed the potential consequences of sharing personal moments online.
Let's not share or like videos, which shame children in any way. Additionally, let's speak up when we see something on social media that doesn't belong there. Report it, call parents, leave a comment, whatever. Be a voice that speaks out against a culture of Internet shaming.