|Anonymous child. Photo by George Hodan.|
Pittsburgh news woman, Wendy Bell, launched her Summer Electronics Ban (SEB) campaign a couple of months ago and has been documenting it on her public Facebook page. I've 'liked' many of the posts she wrote regarding the progress of the campaign. Her four sons, however, have probably not been quite so pleased. For one thing, I doubt they enjoy having their personal lives put on display for thousands upon thousands of their mom's followers. I can't help wondering what their friends think or what it will be like for them when they return to school later this month.
As adults, it's up to us to protect our kids from bullying as best we can. But as I have followed Wendy's SEB, I came to the conclusion that in many ways, she is doing a bit of cyber bullying of her own children. And today, in my opinion, she crossed the line when she posted a photo of her seven-year-old son sitting on the closed seat of a toilet in a hotel with a bar of soap in his mouth. The caption reads: "Seven year olds don't swear. When they do, they get this. A bar of soap in the mouth. Happy Vacation."
I looked at the picture and I started to cry. The more I thought about it, the more tears I shed. Why? Because I remember what it was like being humiliated as a child. But for me, it was small compared to the enormity of public shaming on Facebook. And yet, there are things from my childhood that remain with me to this day. Things that damaged my psyche. Things that made me insecure. Things that have created doubt in my own worth.
And that's what I fear is ahead for this precious young boy. What will it be like for him when he goes to school in a few weeks? Will kids show up with bars of soap to mock him? I imagine him waking up for school with knots in his stomach, dreading the day ahead. Oh how I want to hug this kid and tell him it's okay... he's okay.
Now, in no means am I inferring that Wendy Bell is not a good mother. I believe she is probably a fantastic mother. And I love the whole concept of the ban on electronics in her home. But I do think she made a heinous error in judgment here. I won't address the whole soap-in-the-mouth aspect; I simply want to remind everyone of their responsibility to their kids to not humiliate them on social media. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Humiliation hurts way beyond the here and now. It clings to one's soul, a dark shadow ever present. Ever present.
And to the nearly 50 (at this point) Facebookers who shared the picture of Wendy's son... SHAME ON YOU for further exposing this young boy to even more embarrassment. Way to go. I can only pray that I'm wrong and that he will emerge with his ego intact.
For more on the effects of public shaming via the Internet, click here to read the story of Izabel Laxamana, a 13-year-old who jumped to her death off a highway overpass after her father posted a YouTube video of cutting off her hair to punish her. This article goes into more of the reasons why humiliating a child online is unwise.