At the risk of sounding like one of those anti-corporal punishment Nazis who keep Children’s Services on speed dial just in case things get out of hand at the local grocery store, I have to say this pervasive trend of parents using social media to discipline (read: publicly humiliate) their children has me feeling some type of way.
Val “HairLyfe” Starks is the latest parent to use Facebook to show her child who’s boss and, as these things usually go, putting her daughter on blast for acting out has now turned her into a viral sensation – and a hero of sorts to fellow parents who watched her 5:40 interrogation. Now to be clear, Val did have reason to check her 13-year-old daughter who was talking to older men on Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild claiming to be 19 year’s old and posting pictures of herself in her bra proclaiming to be “a freak.” And in a world of far too many absentee parents, I do applaud Val’s proactive hands-on approach and appreciate the reminder it serves to parents everywhere to monitor their adolescent and teen children’s social media activity very closely. But when it comes to the lesson the child needed to learn in this situation, I can’t help but ask, is there not a better way?
We all know back in the day our mama’s were quick to tell us, “I will embarrass you in front of all these people.” And most times they did so any time and at any place where we got out of line. But the repercussions of that embarrassment lived on, at most, in one of those “remember that one time yo mama blah blah blah” stories relatives like to tell when they get together at family gatherings and that was the end of it. In cases like Val’s, these parents seem to be forgetting that what’s put on the Internet never dies – and rarely is that a good thing.
I personally believe there’s a fine line between discipline and public shaming, and if I had to put Val’s viral interrogation in one of those categories I’d choose the latter. For five minutes she forces her daughter to admit her real age (not a problem), the fact that she still watches Disney channel (also not a problem), and the fact that she can barely wash her a** good (problem) as she sobs on camera. Again, we know a lot of parents don’t hesitate to pull out their children’s deepest darkest secrets when they get beside themselves, but most times those stories don’t go past Aunt Netty who happened to be at the house at the time and maybe our siblings. The entire world – or at least several million people, judging by the 10.6 million views and counting the video has received since it was posted May 17 –now know this child’s business. And not the least of which of those millions of people are her peers in school who, undoubtedly, have since subjected her to a good amount of taunting as a result. The fact that Val attempted to blur out her daughter’s face is a moot point considering she proudly posted the video on Facebook and announced the girl she’s yelling at is her child. And judging by the overwhelming kudos Val has received for her method of discipline, not to mention the 312,000 shares and counting the video’s received, it appears what she’s really given her daughter is a gift of humiliation that keeps on giving.
There likely isn’t a woman alive who wasn’t checked by a parent at some point in their pre-teen years for being “too fast.” I also bet there isn’t a woman alive who stopped being so-called fast just because their mama told them not too. While I can’t speak to what Val may have said to her daughter after this video (because she didn’t record that), for all of the berating she did she seemed to miss the opportunity for a real conversation about the dangers of her teen’s behavior. I’m not surprised she didn’t remind her daughter that posting pics online in her bra could haunt her later in life since that appears to be a lesson Val hasn’t learned herself, but what about the risk of engaging older men? As the rant carried on, it became apparent that this video was really about the mom and not teaching the child. Around the 5-minute mark Val starts talking about what a good mother she is as she yells to her daughter, “Tell them that your mom takes care of you without help from your deadbeat dad.” M’am, this is not about you right now.
Therein lies my issue with these public displays of discipline, though. These days, some parents appear to be no different from reality TV hopefuls, willingly putting their private family matters on display in the hopes some local news channel will pick up the story or they’ll be invited on “The Ellen Show” and named parent of the year. In my mind, that behavior is just as bad as that of this little girls, except as an adult these parents should know better. We love to tell folks Facebook doesn’t need to know all their business and yet when we see parents like Val exposing it all with no thought of the long-term effects on their child we laud them. I don’t know what Val’s daughter’s life has been like in the four days since this video hit the web so maybe the personal consequences aren’t as serious as I suspect they could be. But if this was me and my child, I wouldn’t take that chance.
Image Credits: Facebook/YouTube Screenshot