Punishing Kids Through Facebook

Punishing Kids Through Facebook

Denise Abbot used Facebook to send a stern message to her 13-year-old daughter, fueling debate over parenting in the digital age. What took so long?

The Ohio mom took to daughter Ava’s Facebook page, posting a picture of her daughter, with a red “X” across her mouth and the following caption: “I do not know how to keep my [implied by picture as mouth shut]. I am no longer allowed on Facebook or my phone. Please ask why.”

Abbot’s actions were prompted by a familiar situation for many parents. Ava was mouthing off to her mom in front of her friends while her mom was driving them — providing a running, immature commentary about her operation of the vehicle. As the chatter continued despite Denise’s warnings, she considered an appropriate punishment. By the time they got home, Denise decided on a course of action.

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

“I decided to do something that I know would totally impact her, and that the next time she started that, she’d think ‘I don’t want my face all over Facebook again with a red ‘X’ over my mouth,” said Abbott to NBC, adding that she thought her daughter was fit to handle her punishment. Abbott said she doesn’t regret her actions.

Almost immediately, traditional media picked up on Abbot’s Facebook punishment, bloggers took to their sites to cheer and jeer the mother, and parents on soccer sidelines and baseball bleachers buzzed about the story, just as they did in February when a frustrated gun-toting dad made his point to his daughter on the social network.

These parents’ specific tactics will likely be subject to ongoing debate, but the question of whether parents can or should use social media in parenting is much more obvious.

Using Facebook to Lay Down the Law

Parents make use of the things that kids value to discipline, motivate and reward, whether that is a car, hobbies or technology. Twenty years ago, nobody would bat an eye if a parent took the car keys away from an unruly teen. Today, teenagers report they actually value smartphones over cars, making technology and its attendant social media connection a powerful parental tool.

Today’s teens, born and bathed in glowing light of the digital age, often feel entitled being on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean they are, especially when they have developing ideas of what’s appropriate to post on the social network.

Are parents so intimidated by the digital edge kids have over them that they are afraid to cut off the connection? Maybe, but they are making strides.

Where the Kids Are

Parents are increasingly checking up on their kids’ Facebook activity, according to the latest phase of the “Digital Diaries” project by online security firm AVG.

But tellingly, words like “snooping,” and “peeking” describe the practice for parents, suggesting there may a double standard in play here. When the general population browses Facebook to check up on friends, they are using the site as intended, so why the outcry when parents do it?

Some compare social networks to diaries, but parents and children shouldn’t have any illusions — this is not the case. Without restrictions, these sites are easily accessible by friends, strangers, colleges, employers and others. So, what’s a parent to do?

“You have to adapt your parenting skills with the times,” Abbot told NBC. And, her daughter’s response indicates she may have gotten the message.

“I feel like I deserved it because I was mean to my mom and spoke disrespectful to her in front of my friends,” Ava wrote in an email to the television station.

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