If you haven’t seen the video about the father who shot his child’s laptop after she posted an ungrateful, obnoxious posting on Facebook, it’s worth a look. As a parent of a teenage daughter who can be rude and selfish, I can relate. Yet as a person who studies developmental psychology, I know that adolescents often are rude and selfish, and some of this behavior may be beyond their control. In addition, authoritarian parenting, heavy with rules, strictness, low tolerance and little warmth, is associated with negative outcomes for children. And it’s pretty clear this dad has a heavy hand. Moreover, I personally don’t think guns are ever a solution to a problem. I mean, what is the dad modeling (modeling is one of the most influential ways that people learn due to mirror neurons in all of our brains)? Get angry and use guns to solve your problem?
But it does show very clearly, one of the problems with allowing children access to these tools. This girl was acting out against her parent’s rules. Very normal. She said something rude about one of their parent’s friends. Again normal. But in the past this was contained to inside the home or within a small group of school friends. In the 21st century? She chose to post it on Facebook. What was she thinking? It seems that her father may have even been a Facebook friend. Even if he wasn’t, the teenager’s difficulty to connect actions with consequences combined with increased risk taking behavior, made her not think that without a doubt her father would see the post. And moreover, that the father’s friend would see the post and be hurt by being called a housecleaner.
The most recent Pew report on social networking sites found that most adults witnessed kind behavior on the sites, but the less heralded number is that 49% witnessed mean behavior – and the group surveyed were adults! That is an astonishingly high number. A former study on teens and social networking sites reflected a higher number to witness mean behavior — 88%. Think about it — in your day-to-day, face to face daily life how much mean and cruel behavior do you witness? I would venture to say it is much less than 49%.
These sites give children (and in fact all of us) tools to act out, and if they have poor self-control, to act emotionally. The teen who acted out on Facebook suffered some pretty serious consequences. But then her father notched it up a level when he reacted. His original YouTube video was removed – perhaps he is reconsidering his actions and took it down? But now it’s too late – his video has been reposted by others and in many many places and will live on.