The weekend before last my family endured a six-hour-plus car trip, part of which was made more bearable when I passed my iPhone to my 4-year-old daughter. She has figured out how to use the video mechanism and, when I let her use it, generally treats her little sister as her muse.
Later, I scrolled through the vignettes she’d recorded and realized that much of it consisted of the back of my head and the conversation I was having with her father. We had said nothing egregious, though my husband and I, obliviously thinking the girls were entertaining themselves, were not in “modeling” mode.
Two very different, recent YouTube parenting episodes brought those recordings to mind. The first was the much-publicized video depicting what looks like a Texas judge beating his daughter. The now-grown Hillary Adams posted it to expose the abuse. It lead to public condemnation of the father and on Friday, he was placed under a temporary restraining order effectively banning him from visiting his younger daughter.
The second was a far more benign video that made the rounds this weekend. It’s a cute snippet that shows a dog responding to a toddler’s tantrum. Viewers can hear the mother laughing as she records the interaction. Here’s the clip:
Whereas the ferocious response to the first video was justified, some of the responses to that second video were also vicious.
The mother wrote a response that Babble published that told of her shock at both the popularity of the video and, later, at the tenor of many of the anonymous comments, including one that condemned her for doing “nothing” as her baby cried. She wrote:
“First I was angry – clearly this person didn’t have kids or they would know that coddling your child isn’t the answer to stopping every tantrum a 2-year-old has. I’ll let this roll off my shoulders… wait… people think I’m a bad mom after watching this? Hold the Internet presses. We’re shutting down. No more video. No shows, no news reports. What if social services calls and says I’m raising my child incorrectly? Can I possibly defend myself?”
Can she? Should she have to?
In the Adams case, the video depicted abuse. It’s a good thing abusive caregivers have something to worry about it. But should the rest of be on guard, too?
More and more YouTube is part of our lives as parents. We are putting up many of the videos and soon, our children will be publicizing our unedited daily lives, complete with our debatable parenting approaches and flat-out mistakes.
What if my daughter surreptitiously taped my bearish mood this morning and e-mailed the evidence around? Or, what about what I consider gleeful moments, such as my two girls racing each other down the block? I might record that and send it to the grandparents, but if the scene was passed on to YouTube, other people could anonymously pick apart my choice to let them run and shout. Would I have been so hands-off if I thought there was an audience?
Does the electronic age mean we should always consider ourselves parenting in public? If so, will that make us better parents?