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Social Media Parenting

Last night I posted the video and a story about an Ohio man who punished his 10 year old daughter for bullying by making her walk to school. He followed behind her in his pick-up to make sure she was safe, but he also took video of the kid (shot from behind) and posted it to social media to shame her.

I posted something affirming what he did — the punishment, I mean. The kid had been kicked off the school bus a second time for bullying. I was bullied pretty badly as a kid, and I had an emotional reaction to this story, as I always do to bullying stories. I still think the father was right to make his bully daughter walk to school as punishment.

But in the post, I minimized the harm of him posting this to social media. I indicated that it was regrettable that he did that. Reading the comments many of you left on that post convinced me that I was wrong for a couple of reasons. First, I was wrong to minimize the horror of that father posting it to social media, and second, I was wrong to post the video here, and thereby participate in this father’s monstrous act.

You were all right, and I was wrong. I took the post down. A reader wrote to say that he doesn’t care about the forced walk to school, but that he finds the video to be obscene — like child porn, in fact — because it’s about demonstrating the power of one person over another. He said that he’s actually terrified of what that father did: normalizing surveillance and the objectification of all relationships by turning everything into “material” to feed the social media beast.

He’s right about that, and I regret that I didn’t see that clearly last night. I don’t even post images of my children to social media when they do good things, and I never would have done that. So why was I so quick to approve of that man doing it — or if not exactly approve, then fail to be more than just uncomfortable with it? Because the life I live online has gotten me accustomed to seeing people as material, and personal dramas as events.

In this case, that child could not consent to being turned into material, which is why it is especially horrible.

But what about cases in which adult people objectify themselves, and make a public drama of their own traumas, especially for political gain? Is the fact that they choose to exploit themselves, and to put their own material into the public square, sufficient to give the rest of us permission to comment on it? I think it is, in most cases.

Take, though, the case of these minor children whose parents are putting them into the public square as drag queens (e.g., Desmond Is Amazing) and transgenders (e.g., any number of sympathetic media profiles of trans children)? How should we regard them? It seems irresponsible to ignore them totally, because by publicizing them, the children’s parents are attempting to normalize what their children do. On the other hand, by commenting on it, even critically, we are participating in those parents’ exploiting their kids, are we not?

Thoughts?

Anyway, I want to thank again you readers who helped me to see how wrong I was. I often complain in this space about people who think that some wrong done to them, or to their kind, justifies any punitive response, in the name of justice, or social justice. Well, I fell right into that same trap last night. My residual strong emotions over what bullies did to me as a kid allowed me to ignore the horror of a father humiliating his bullying child on social media. Mea maxima culpa…

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68 Comments To "Social Media Parenting"

#1 Comment By Liam On December 7, 2018 @ 5:43 pm

Thank you for taking down the post and this follow-up.

“Because the life I live online has gotten me accustomed to seeing people as material, and personal dramas as events.”

Continue to devote attention to that realization.

#2 Comment By Xenie On December 7, 2018 @ 5:55 pm

I am still skeptical and concerned about what “bullying” even occurred in the first place. A lot of us had bad experience with bullies in school, so we see the word “bullying” and react swiftly and emotionally. But we also know, as readers of a conservative blog, that these days “bullying” is a word that can be used by the authorities to mean all kinds of things we may not agree is actually akin to the bullying we experienced in the schoolyard. For instance, saying “you are really a boy and can never become a girl” to a trans student could be seen as extreme, severe bullying. It’s also the simple, plain truth. Saying “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman” is regarded as extreme bigotry and bullying, as well. With the inflation of rhetoric, who knows what this poor kid even actually did?

#3 Comment By JohnInCA On December 7, 2018 @ 6:05 pm

@Siarlys Jenkins

Since it is a matter of some controversy where the truth lies, some caution in choice of adjectives may be in order.

I did. Please note, in the comment thread on [1], I only had one comment that was pretty tame.

This? Is a thread specifically about bullying, particularly of kids. I think Rod’s previous actions in this regard, and the way his commenters gleefully piled on, is pretty relevant.

And frankly, one of y’all called the girl evil, and another said the dad was going to a special place in Hell, and many of you piled on with “the school is probably just mocking her, they don’t actually support her”. Even if you’re right about trans folk, that’s still bullying, only then you’re bullying someone for being mentally ill, and her dad for following the advice of her doctors. And maybe I’m wrong, but I thought we all agreed that mocking kids for being retarded was wrong back in the 90s.

#4 Comment By Clyde Schechter On December 7, 2018 @ 6:34 pm

Rod,

I didn’t see the original post, so my response is based only on what is in the current post. We all make mistakes, particularly when our feelings get the better of us. But what is so uncommon is to admit our mistakes, publicly, and think through why we made them. I really commend you for your public mea culpa. There really should be so much more of this on the internet–but one hardly ever sees it.

Thank you for your decency and responsibility.

#5 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On December 7, 2018 @ 6:47 pm

Siarlys writes: “Equality is not the primary issue in bullying. The primary issue is you don’t treat people that way, period, whether you in fact are superior to them in some way, or are not.”

Yes and no. I agree that the best prevention would be if people understood and agreed with the specific ethic that it is wrong to bully (under the broader injunction not to harm others). If we lived in such a society, we would then be left with only the small percentage of people who bully out of pathology and the pleasure they receive from causing harm.

We do not live in such a society. We live in one where people crave to pull rank and claim that what they own/believe/feel/value is superior to anything and everything that is owned/believed/felt/valued in a different way (such are the wages of self). Most people engage in bullying to put another human in her place, and that place is never one of equal rank (no one has ever bullied up). It is done to make one feel (even for a brief instant), as Madeleine notes, “top of the heap.”

#6 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 7, 2018 @ 7:12 pm

I recall reading the American Spectator, and being horrified about Ben Stein posting in his column there all about his son’s failures and successes. I think I even wrote to him about how counter-productive it was going to be.

I don’t think he stopped, and I don’t know how it affected the outcome, more than twenty years on.

It wasn’t long before I stopped reading both the American Spectator and National Review, in turn. Possibly it was the ready embrace of jingoistic war fever.

#7 Comment By Tom D On December 8, 2018 @ 12:29 am

One thought that I can’t help but have upon further reflection is that what the father did to his own kid really could be described as bullying. So in a way, I don’t find it surprising that the kid got suspended from the school bus for bullying — because he learned how to bully at home, from his own father.

Sometimes there really are no “good guys” in a story, and this seems more and more like on of those times.

But regarding Rod’s latest comments — one reason why I continue to respect Rod despite frequent disagreements is his ability to admit to being wrong. That’s all too rare today.

#8 Comment By Kevin in OR On December 8, 2018 @ 12:29 am

Engineer Scotty wrote:

(A jogger of average ability and fitness can cover that distance in about 1/2 hour; an elite runner in under 25 minutes).

Say what? An average jogger can maintain a 10 mph pace for a half an hour? I want to be average in your world! If you think I’m crazy, go to your nearest treadmill and set the speed for 10 mph and see how long you can keep going.

#9 Comment By artsandcrafts On December 8, 2018 @ 5:33 am

I commend you for removing the previous post. But next time, I hope that you might be a little less quick to react so emotionally to a topic like this. I try not to comment on so many threads here–I feel very out of step with many of your commenters. I refused to click on the removed video. My immediate thought was that the father is a bully himself, and I recall a few other videos like this that were enthused about in your pages at the time. Following his daughter and recording it made me uneasy. Next, I noticed that the girl was walking along what looks like a country road with no sidewalks. Next, I would not take someone else’s word for it that the girl is a bully–we don’t have enough information to know this with certainty. Nothing about this story looks good, not just the fact that it was posted on the Internet.

#10 Comment By Surly On December 8, 2018 @ 11:12 am

Ah parents behaving badly…this reminds me of the Instagram mommy that worried about her six year old son’s popularity–she is exploiting her kids for attention:

““Instagram never liked my Munchkin and it killed me inside. His photos never got as many likes. Never got comments. From a statistical point of view, he wasn’t as popular with everyone out there.”

She added: “I revealed this feeling because I know one day he will see the numbers and have to learn that his value is not in online approval. This is a hard lesson for anyone to learn and I’m thankful I have learned it.”

[2]

#11 Comment By EngineerScotty On December 8, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

Say what? An average jogger can maintain a 10 mph pace for a half an hour? I want to be average in your world! If you think I’m crazy, go to your nearest treadmill and set the speed for 10 mph and see how long you can keep going.

I’m definitely NOT an “average jogger” (more of an average couch potato, except I seldom watch TV), so my guesstimate of what pace “average” joggers can sustain may be off. I also happen to work very close to Nike corporate headquarters, so that might color my impressions, too.

But 30 minutes did sound on the low side.

But either is well faster than a 10-year-old walking can cover the distance.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 8, 2018 @ 8:45 pm

We do not live in such a society. We live in one where people crave to pull rank and claim that what they own/believe/feel/value is superior to anything and everything that is owned/believed/felt/valued in a different way (such are the wages of self).

Of course. That’s also true of the Trans crowd, the crowd that wanted photographers and bakers and florists sued, and all kinds of mobs. The antidote is not to cater to the various claims to status, but do affirm, it doesn’t matter what weird delusions you live by or want to enforce or inflict, you can’t do that.

When you let status and identity into the definition, SOMEONE is going to feel that their vaunted “superiority” has been affirmed and that SOME “inferior” has been put in their place.

Its the same reason I oppose hate crime laws. Dylan Roof is not a criminal because he harbors racist thoughts. He is a criminal because he shot several people in a premeditated act. The best way to give him a new perspective is to let him know that we don’t care what his motives are, his actions are unacceptable, and he was sentenced for his actions, not his preferences.

The recent conviction of the man who ran down Heather Heyer, and several others who had not the mischanced to be killed, was that he thought he was acting in self-defense. Lame, but what did his lawyers have to work with? He obviously wasn’t.

And frankly, one of y’all called the girl evil….

JohnCA: You continue to look for an anxiety closet full of bogeymen. There is not any “y’all.” When I walked into a conversation between four friends I had overheard from the next room, I could refer to “y’all.” Rod Dreher’s Readers and Commenters are not a disciplined body of political advocates subject to the direction of a powerful central committee. (Likewise, gay men in San Francisco’s Castro district are unique individuals who have a variety of thoughts and opinions about how they want to relate to the wider world in which they live. Even if they have self-selected to live in a rather narrow bubble based on one or two common preferences, we can’t refer to them as “y’all” or “those people.”)

many of you piled on with “the school is probably just mocking her, they don’t actually support her”

Now there you might be talking about something I said personally. I cited something that happened to a student in my junior high school, and raised the possibility that some of this is at work in the election of a M2F trans student as homecoming queen. I won’t believe we know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth until the banners come down and the empirics are all collected and analyzed from fifty-eleven different perspectives.

(Incidentally, when I said some caution in choice of adjectives may be in order, I meant just about everyone… trans “advocates,” those who flatly deny there is such a thing, and almost everyone in between. It wasn’t all about you.)

For instance, saying “you are really a boy and can never become a girl” to a trans student could be seen as extreme, severe bullying. It’s also the simple, plain truth.

Beating up a trans student is bullying. Following them home cracking demeaning jokes about their future sex life is bullying. Refusing a perfectly competent trans student as a science partner because “they have cooties” is bullying. Making a rational statement why you personally believe that the whole trans thing is delusional and will not end well is NOT bullying. People who believe otherwise, who have the courage of their convictions, will have the spine to respond, I don’t think so, and here’s why. No different from, some of us in my high school thought the U.S. should get out of Vietnam, others wanted to “Support our Troops” by keeping them over there fighting and dying. Not once was anyone expelled over the difference, nor did fist fights break out. (It helped that the “left” in our high school embraced a continuum from bikers to nerds who often hung out together.)

#13 Comment By I Don’t Matter On December 8, 2018 @ 11:42 pm

Rod, as always, appreciate your ability to change your mind and admit being wrong.
This topic, parental pride in their kids, is very painful. I cringe every time I see “proud parent of dean’s list student” or some such bumper sticker. Because it’s sinful pride, it’s turning your kids into accessory to your life, your bling, another “I’m better than you” display, on par with driving a beemer. And what will this parent do when the kid fails? Becomes a mechanic instead of a lawyer? Gets addicted to oxi? I don’t see “despondent but loving parent of an addict” bumper stickers…

#14 Comment By JohnInCA On December 10, 2018 @ 3:20 pm

@Siarlys Jenkins
Once again, I would thank you to not speculate on my mental state. You should properly reserve said speculation for teenagers who can’t defend themselves.

To the remainder, I know you’re offended. I don’t care. Want me to care? Do better.

Hint: jumping immediately to an obviously disenguous excuse is not “doing better”.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 10, 2018 @ 9:49 pm

Pure non sequitir JohninCA. By your fruits do I know you. No reason to speculate about the interior of your pointed little head.

#16 Comment By JohnInCA On December 11, 2018 @ 11:53 am

@Siarlys Jenkins
Of course there’s no need, which is why it’s perplexing that you put me in the position where I need to ask you to stop.

Similarly, there is no need for juvenile insults, and yet here we are.

That said, I find it funny you’d compare me to a false prophet. I have not been shy about who and what I am, so if you confused me thusly, that’s not on me.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 12, 2018 @ 12:23 am

You’re not a prophet John, false or otherwise. The lives of the most mundane human beings have fruits by which most of us evaluate character, reliability, and whether this is someone worth taking seriously. I sense a tendency toward delusion when you insist I’m reading your mind. I’m merely responding to your words. Perhaps you should apply to Charles Cosimano for one of those tin foil hats to make sure your thoughts remain private. (You might make a better case for your point of view if you avoid coming down to the “I am rubber, you are glue” level of discourse).

#18 Comment By JohnInCA On December 13, 2018 @ 1:19 pm

@Siarlys Jenkins

I sense a tendency toward delusion when you insist I’m reading your mind.

Huh? Is that what you think I mean when I say
” I would thank you to not speculate on my mental state.”?

Okay, let me rephrase to clear up this confusion.

When you say things such as

You continue to look for an anxiety closet full of bogeymen.

or

I sense a tendency toward delusion when you insist I’m reading your mind.

You are making claims about my mental state. I am characterizing these claims as “speculation”, and asking you to not make them.

I do not believe you are reading my mind or trying to, just openly speculating. It’d be no more proper for me to say “Oh Siarlys Jenkins, you delusional schizophrenic, stop listening to the goblins in your tea”. Beyond how rude such assumptions are, there’s no need for it. “Respond to the idea, not the person” and all that jazz.

So no. I do not, have not, and will not ever accuse you of “reading my mind”. Quite the opposite. By calling it “speculation” I am quite explicitly stating that you don’t know what I’m actually thinking or what motivates me.