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Is "social media shaming" an appropriate form of discipline?

Earlier this year, a YouTube video of a father shooting his daughter’s laptop went viral. Apparently, his daughter had not been following some family rules and had taken to Facebook to badmouth her parents. As a punishment, dad took a gun to her laptop. But what is perhaps just as jolting as his decision to riddle a laptop with bullets is that he chose to film this act of discipline and post it on YouTube and Facebook, so that his daughter’s friends and family could bear witness.

A similar story is making the socia media rounds this week. A mother discovered her daughter posing with liquor on her Instagram account. As a consequence, she made her daughter take a photo of herself holding a sign that said, “I am obviously not ready for social media and will be taking a hiatus.” This photo became wildly popular on Facebook, with scores of parents lauding this mother’s decision.

mother embarrasses daughter on facebook

The idea of public discipline, and even social media shame, is a new option for parents in the technology age, but is this a healthy approach? I have some concerns. While I think embarrassment is likely to deter bad behavior in the future, I also think that there is an implicit violation of privacy involved in posting our children’s shortcomings and punishments online. In both cases, these children were shamed not only in front of their family and peers, but also in the court of public opinion as these posts went viral. They now have thousands of strangers weighing in on their behavior, which is a punishment that may be above and beyond the crime.

As parents, I think it is vitally important that we monitor what our children are doing online. In my opinion, the examples above are illustrations of parents who gave their children too much freedom too soon and rectified a family problem by scapegoating their children in public. This may not be a popular opinion, but it is my belief that when minors are inappropriate online, that both the child AND the parent bear some responsibility.

It seems I am in the minority, though, because according to comments on both original posts, other parents seem to praise the idea of shaming kids via social media. What do you think? Do you think all is fair in love and Facebook? Does a public infraction warrant public discipline? Or are these parents violating the privacy of their children?

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