Experts discuss dangers of ‘social media shaming’ as a parenting tool

Posted at 10:15 PM, May 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-06 07:47:22-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Have you ever heard of "dog shaming?" It's a phenomenon that went viral in a big way last year, with owners upset over their canine's bad behavior posting pictures on the Internet for the world to see.

But now dog shaming has evolved into something called 'kid shaming,’ and some are wondering: Do these tactics get results, or are they doing more harm than good?

FOX 13 News’ Allison Croghan spoke to a local psychologist about this new trend.

Sometimes it’s done to be spiteful, other times, just to be funny. A spur of the moment decision to share certain pictures or videos on social media could have lifelong impacts on your most important relationships. The posts range from parents showing their children’s tantrums to a video of a father shooting his daughter’s laptop.

Doctor Doug Goldsmith, executive director of The Children’s Center in Salt Lake City, said social media shaming is a growing concern.

He said: “When you’re a high school kid that worries everyone’s looking at you anyway, and your parent just posted something on the internet, how could you possibly walk into school?”

Still, Goldsmith said the practice of humiliation as punishment isn’t new.

"In the 20s and 30s we were putting kids in the corner in the classroom with a dunce cap,” he said.

But Goldsmith said new technology makes things different.

“I think the impulsivity the internet is encouraging is a huge issue,” he said.

What's strange about this trend? Some parents are being impulsive, while their teenagers urge restraint.

Lindsey Walker is a sophomore at West Jordan High School, and she said she is opposed to shaming.

“I’d be kind of angry, not going to lie,” she said. “I’d kind of lose a sense of trust for them. The fact they would want to embarrass me, in front of my peers and other adults they’re friends with: I don’t feel like that’s a good relationship between your parents.”

Dillen Clark, a senior at West Jordan High School, said there is also the issue of permanence to consider.

“You can work things out with your family, but when it's still out there, it's out there for good,” Clark said.

Walker added: “High school's tough, and it doesn't need to be any tougher than it already is."

And many of the adults who spoke with FOX 13 News, like mother Becky Smith, agree.

“I feel like that's more of a private thing that should be kept within the walls of the home,” she said.

Some adults, however, think there’s a fine line between shaming, and simply sharing a family moment. Goldsmith said comedy isn’t the issue at hand.

“Shaming is not funny, it's hurtful,” he said.

Goldsmith said the parent/child relationship is intimate, so you should be very careful about what you record, and post.

He said: “Even at the age of 3 and 4, there’s an awareness of: 'Why would you do this to me? Why would you show this ugly part of me that we usually reserve for the privacy of our own home? I don't want everyone to see this.'"

So next time you`re getting ready to press 'share,’ he wants you to remember this.

“I think the rule of thumb should be: How is the child going to feel about this when she's 16 and sees it?” he said.

One Utah family has firsthand experience with social media shaming and the ways it can go viral. Scott Mackintosh of Lehi posted pictures of himself in short-shorts in an effort to teach his daughter about modesty, and the pictures went far and wide.

“I don't know if I pulled them off or not,” Mackintosh said. “I’m a balding, fat, 50-year-old gray guy, but you know what? So be it.”

Mackintosh said he wanted to teach his 19-year-old daughter about the importance of modesty. He said the photos weren’t supposed to be shared, but when they were, they went viral.

“Sometimes I do things, and I don't think,” Mackintosh said. “I don't think, and it just happens. And that situation was one of those times.”

The family began to get calls from news outlets all over the world, and Becky Mackintosh, Scott’s wife, said their main concern was for their daughter, Myley.

Becky Mackintosh said: “I said, 'Myley, how do you feel about this? Because it's picking up speed. It looks like it's going to go viral and we can't stop it.’ She said, ‘I’m okay mom, dad’s the one that should be embarrassed.’”

The family said they later blogged about the “real story” behind the photos and they said overall the reactions were positive. But Becky Mackintosh said a few negative reactions were tough to deal with.

“We didn't want her to feel bad whatsoever, that was never, ever our intention, and so that was the hardest part, when she would receive negative attention,” she said.

Goldsmith said such situations may be effective at changing behavior but bad for the relationship.

“It really is potentially doing some very lifelong damage to a relationship,” he said. “We would argue that sitting down and having a conversation at that feeling level would have probably been just as impactful, if not even more so.”

The Mackintosh family has made the most of the situation. Becky has written a book, “My Husband Wears the Short Shorts in this Family: Parenting With Humor, Courage and Love.”

Scott has been able to quit his job to pursue his dream of making a living through public speaking.

“He’ll probably be labeled the rest of his life as the dad in the short shorts, but he can take that,” Becky Mackintosh said.