‘Using social media to hang a child out to dry is despicable’
12:10 13 March 2016
It’s a phone call that every parent dreads: “Hello, your son has been bullying another child.”
The sensible response is to find out what happened and – if the accusation is substantiated – deal with it.
That ought to involve getting your son to apologise to their victim, preferably in person, and giving him a stern lecture and a punishment (I’d go for either pepper spray or banning him from his X-Box for a week or two).
There is another way though, in this modern age of social media, where dirty linen is routinely washed in public.
That is to follow the Terri Day Evans example. Ms Evans was so horrified when her 12-year-old son stamped on a girl’s foot and broke her shoe that she shamed him – on the social network Facebook.
Her post was “liked” by 55,000 people – the virtual equivalent of standing him in the middle of the pitch in front of a capacity crowd at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium to have rotten fruit thrown at him.
She even used a hashtag – one of my many pet hates, except when they are on Twitter – #Iwillnothaveabullyinmyhouse.
Catchy. And all so horribly wrong.
If I said what I really think, my blood vessels would burst and I’d be sacked for allowing purple prose to turn blue. Suffice to say that I think using social media to hang a child out to dry is despicable.
However, it is just the natural product of the tiresome habit of using our children as a means to boost our image on Facebook and Twitter.
Until fairly recently, if we wanted to boast about our children’s achievements, we had an audience of a few friends, workmates or family members. Now, there are endless possibilities – and thousands of people to reach with our bids for reflected glory.
Here are a few made up but realistic Facebook posts that are typical of the sort of nauseating guff that some people post:
1 – “I’d like to wish my gorgeous Lily a happy 15th birthday. I can’t believe she’s this age already.” You can’t believe it? It’s not as if it has been a bolt from the blue. Lily aged incrementally, one day at a time, giving you plenty of warning.
2 – “So today I’m the proud father of a [insert name of junior sports team here] member. Well done, Jaden.” Er, why not just tell the lad face-to-face and cut out the hundreds of middle people? Also, starting a sentence with “so” is so annoying. So there.
3 – “Not sure where Francesca got her brains from, but she got eight A*s in her GCSEs. #proudmum.” Well she didn’t get them from you, mum. If you had her cell-count, you wouldn’t be Facebooking a message that should be delivered in a card containing lots of money.
4 – “I’m not someone to boast, but Luke is such a clever, handsome and mature young man. #ilovemyson.” You are one to boast, and one to live your dashed dreams through the achievements of your son.
It’s all about getting as many “likes” as possible, and some cheap and meaningless adulation.
I might be proud of my children, but I’m not telling you – nor am I going to take to Facebook to boast about their achievements or express surprise at how they are older than they were when they were younger (or taller than they were when they were smaller).
Although I need all the reflected glory I can get, I refuse to get it at the expense of my children.
It would be embarrassing for them and disrespectful to them.