Debate About the "Facebook Parenting" Viral Video

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Some days ago a video on YouTube called "Facebook Parenting: For the Troubled Teen" started going viral. I saw people post it on Facebook and just today I saw an online news article about it. If you don't want to watch the whole eight minutes, I'll try to sum it up as best I can (skip two paragraphs if you watched it):

A father reports to the camera that his 15-year old daughter made a post on Facebook (which she unsuccessfully tried to hide from him using privacy settings) that was filled with profanity and vicious complaints about her parents. It seems she wrote a lot, mainly about her feeling that she was being forced to do tons of jobs around the house, and that her parents should either pay her for doing them or just do them themselves. Apparently the post also got a lot of "likes" from her friends, which I'd guess is probably how her dad found out about it.

In response to this, the girl's dad decided to make his video, talking about how disrespectful his daughter was, how disappointed he is in her, and also about how the chores she's asked to do are actually very minimal. He also talks about the punishment she'll get for writing the post, and he then takes a handgun and shoots his daughter's laptop several times. (Go to the 7 minute mark in the video for the action.) The other punishments are purportedly grounding, making the daughter pay for her next computer - only after college - and then of course the shame of the video itself. I guess you could say his making of the video was intended to serve a double purpose - first to shame his daughter, but also to try to teach a lesson to the friends who liked the post. I can't imagine he ever expected getting 17 million views and receiving national attention.

In the wake of all that attention, I'd say this video has now sparked a bit of a nationwide debate on parenting. Out of the people who "liked" or "disliked" the video on YouTube, nearly 87% liked it, which would seem to indicate a big majority approval. All the people I saw share the video also seemed to approve of it. Nevertheless, on the comment sections of the video and other places it's been posted, active debates are ongoing, and a vocal minority is expressing harsh disapproval of the father. Let's analyze the debate, shall we?

The way I see it, it looks like the majority approval stems from a number of widespread feelings: 1. that disrespecting one's parents is unacceptable, 2. that doing so in the way this girl did (online, using profanity, etc.) is especially unacceptable, and 3. that this requires substantial punishment. Many of these commenters share stories of how they disrespected or disobeyed, and now that they're older they understand their parents' disappointment and punishments, including examples of electronics or toys being destroyed. Many commenters conclude that the father's actions were more or less the correct response, and that this is how children should be disciplined.

Given their much smaller numbers, it's harder for me to characterize the general nature of negative commenters' views. I'd say they mainly stem from the impression that the father's response was way out of proportion, (especially shooting the computer), or that the problem should have been dealt with a different way, and perhaps that the daughter's actions represent a failure in parenting or communication on the parents' part.

Now, I completely understand how wrong it was for this fifteen-year-old to do what she did - though I haven't seen her original post and perhaps no one else ever will, as I assume it's long been deleted. I also sympathize with the father and mother here, and how they must have felt and been enraged after reading what their daughter wrote. (The father is still clearly upset as he's making the video.) All the same, I tend to side with the disapproval side of this debate. Note that I am not a parent - just a 20-year-old student - and you can discount my opinion all you want because of that. Nevertheless, I don't think this father's actions were the right way to go. I think the video was an irrational and disproportionate response - especially the shooting - both in terms of pragmatism and propriety.

Many of the commenters expressed negative sentiments about "this generation" or "kids these days." Yes, "kids these days" have access to things that children in the past didn't have, and that certainly poses unique problems. However, it's a good general rule for historians (and everyone else) to be very suspicious whenever people reminisce about glory days or a golden age. Differences between generations have been perceived and lamented for ages, and differences in child-rearing not only go back generations - they go back millennia, varying greatly among the world's cultures. I think this proves that many different kinds of parenting can be effective. What matters is choosing what's best.

Ideally, I believe the best sort of parenting is preventative. That is to say, children don't have to be taught lessons only after they've done something wrong; parents can teach lessons and instill values in many ways, many of which don't include punishment, and many of which are much more effective. Of course, there will inevitably be instances of disobedience or disrespect, and I don't disagree that punishment is then appropriate. Nonetheless, punishment should never be the end of the story. Punishment should be rational, and it should be the means to an end: greater understanding and respect between parent and child - not years afterward, but rather here and now.

Comments

  1. It is a bit like shooting yourself in the foot (a waste of money to destroy a computer) and destroying any communication between the parent and child so that an education or learning could have taken place.

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  2. I agree with Madame Z. Here's what I have to say to the 87% who liked/approved the dad's bullying of his daughter:

    I'm in no way saying that the girl was in the right for what she did. How the dad reacted to it was inappropriate. He's using force and power instead of reason to guide his daughter's behavior. When parents hit, threaten, and/or humiliate their children, they are teaching them to only do the right thing out of fear of punishment. It doesn't teach the child how to do the right thing simply because it's right. Parents who use external motivators have children who behave while their parents are watching, but when they're not, the child has nothing to stop them from behaving badly. It's blatantly evident this is the case in the video. Children should be taught to do the right thing whether or not their parents are watching.

    Do you think that shooting at her computer and destroying it taught her anything? Do you think that that man and his daughter will have solved their problems? Will their relationship have improved? Will it stop her from cursing about him and what he did behind his back to her friends? No. If he can't manage his own emotions, how does he expect his daughter to be able to do the same?

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