Parent Shaming On The Rise: How Social Media Creates So Many Parenting ‘Experts’

Parent shaming is the new “thing.” Bullying morphed to cyber-bullying, cute pet shaming videos grew to kid shaming episodes, and now there’s parent shaming. Why everyone feels they need or have the right to put others down is a phenomenon unto itself.

Bullying

Remember when bullying was that big kid demanding your lunch money? Sometimes it would be dealt with by that afternoon if somebody saw what happened and the story got back to his mom. That was in the good, old days when if you were going to be mean, you had to have the manberries to do it in person. And parents behaved like parents.

Travel forward to it no longer being children who didn’t know any better doing the bullying, but adults who should have known better than being condescending bullies to their peers — or even their peers’ children. Talking behind backs at gatherings, the grapevine was the epitome of the precursor to social media.

Travel forward once again to the advent of the internet and social media, which now allows the ability to shame people from afar. No longer does one need to have any kind of berries or nerve at all to attack someone else. Friend, stranger, child, dog, or parent, if someone wants to critique another online, it is open season to commentary, whether what is said is nice, ugly, or holds any merit whatsoever. Simply open up your computer, phone, or technical device.

Memes

For awhile, pet shaming was the in thing. Fido chewed up a couch pillow and by that evening, there was a picture of him and the destruction with a sign hanging around his neck detailing his crime. These were funny (they still are) because we’ve all been there. Same with kids — the posts on social media shared some trouble little Billy or Susie got into and some of us cringed, but again we’ve all been there so we had to nod in understanding.

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Experts

Then, last December, a mom posted a photo on her Instagram and Facebook accounts that showed a Christmas tree almost obscured by wrapped presents. She was blasted all over social media for “bragging” and being materialistic. ABC News shared the photo and interviewed her on Good Morning America where she was able to tell a story she shouldn’t have had to tell, but was forced to clarify because the cyber critics had taken parent shaming to its newest height.

As if any single one of those critics was a perfect parent, and parented 100 percent correctly every minute of every day. But maybe they forgot that “judge not” part.

The British mom, 35-year-old Emma Tapping, explained that “The presents under the tree are for my children, myself, my partner and my mother, not just the kids.” She further clarified, “A lot of things are things that they need because I don’t spoil them throughout the year so they get their clothes for the year.” She saves, coupons, deals, and haggles throughout the year to provide for her family. Why didn’t she get a medal and her own TV show? No, people had to knock her down without knowing the full story, because of their own jealousies and insecurities.

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Parent shaming targets celebrities — because everybody believes they are fair game — and non-celebrities alike. Ryan Reynolds was targeted during “baby-carry-gate.” And again, those who post critical comments are perfect parents themselves, even those who don’t even have kids yet. A few days ago gave us another example when Paula Faris shared that her 8-year-old daughter had an iPad, and viewers wanted to know why an 8-year-old had an iPad. It was because she paid for it with her own money, and her parents let her.

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But Wait, There’s More

Parent shaming is known as “the act of criticizing parents…even calling authorities for actions that meant and caused no real harm.” So not only has bullying morphed to cyber shaming, but it has even reached to more outlandish cases of people calling authorities for “child abuse.” According to Child Protective Services, calls to report possible child abuse are up to 3.5 million per year. That’s up 12 percent since 2009. But the cases of actual child abuse have decreased by 4 percent.

Although having a heightened awareness of safety related to parenting and children’s wellfare can be a good thing, the real issue here is not that those people who make critical comments or call authorities are doing it to try to benefit others, it’s that they are doing “things that lead to our own feelings of temporary superiority, but that are not behaviors that are helpful to society at all,” says Dr. Christine Carter, a sociologist at University of California, Berkeley.

The Takeaway

The takeaway here? Unless there are clear and present signs of abuse or neglect where notifying authorities seems like the prudent move, and unless you are a parenting expert who knows everything, never does the wrong thing, and always does the right thing (which is nobody), it is probably best to fall back on the tried and true wisdom: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

[Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]