A video posted to Facebook on Sunday is making headlines for its controversial approach to parenting: It shows a mom shaming her 13-year-old daughter for lying about her age on Facebook. In the video, Denver-based mother Val Starks calls out her adolescent daughter for having a secret Facebook account, in which she claimed to be 19 years old, described herself as a “freak,” and posted photos of herself wearing only a bra. Starks has her daughter repeatedly say to the camera that she is only 13, and that she still has a bedtime and watches the Disney Channel. She demands,
So, tell ‘em. That you’re 13, you’re not a freak, and you don’t know how to wipe your ass good. … Don’t cry now. You wasn’t crying when you was posting pictures on Facebook, was you? In a bra? Some little girl in some lace panties that you know you don’t own. You still wear panties that say Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
Starks later posted the video to her Facebook page, and it has clearly struck a chord among the public. Since Sunday, it has garnered almost 13.5 million Facebook views, along with over 16,000 comments. Many commenters praise Starks for her strong response and her “tough love” approach to discipline, but I’ll be honest: To me, this is not what good parenting looks like.
Obviously, it’s not OK for a 13-year-old to
be posing in her underwear on the Internet, pretending to be 19. It’s very
dangerous, and it shows an upsetting naiveté about how the Internet and social
media work—namely, that once you post pictures on the web, they will live
there forever and a lot of people can
see them. This young woman clearly needed to have some kind of parental
intervention, and so I don’t fault Starks for taking decisive action
(apparently the daughter has been punished for “messaging
too many boys” on Facebook in the past).
But shaming a child in front of the whole world is not the answer. This girl needed to be taught about internet safety and common sense, not humiliated in front of countless strangers. In an article from The Root about what seems to a trend of parents using social media to shame their children, Satira Streeter, executive director of Ascensions Psychological and Community Services, Inc., in Washington, D.C, explains that shaming children is not a good idea, and that, in fact, it can be counter productive. She says,
Discipline is supposed to correct behavior and set boundaries so that the children can then learn how to regulate themselves and make good decisions when their parents aren’t around. You teach them what they’re supposed to do so they can make the right decisions on their own. … If you start humiliating the child, you hurt the relationship with them. Now they’re angry and distrustful of you because you put them out there like that, and you’ve possibly done something immature in trying to teach them a lesson about how to be mature.
I get that, as a parent, it would be extremely frightening to find out that your adolescent daughter had posted semi-nude pictures of herself online, and that she had adult men as Facebook friends. But by exposing her daughter to the world in this way, Starks risks alienating her child and pushing her further away from the lessons she needs to learn to grow into a responsible adult. There’s a certain irony in the fact that this video will work perfectly to teach Stark’s daughter about why social media should be used with care: More than 13 million people have viewed this young girl crying while her mother makes her say that she doesn’t know how to wipe her own ass. Maybe it’s an important lesson learned, but one that could have a major effect on her self-esteem, her social life, and her relationship with her mother. Where do we draw the line between “tough love” and cruelty?
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