Thursday, July 16, 2015

Parenting Pointers: Shaming Your Kids Online Can Permanently Damage Their Self-Esteem

When you reflect back on your childhood, it's likely you remember hearing these words at least once during your childhood. "You should be ashamed of yourself." These words probably made you feel bad because you knew your parent was upset, embarrassed or hurt by something you said or did.

That was discipline and discipline is an important part of parenting. However, telling your child they should be ashamed of themselves is very different from shaming your child on social media. For one thing, anyone can see your display of shaming and it's permanent, making it impossible for your child to be fully forgiven.

Parents who shame their children online can't possibly understand the repercussions of their actions. Discipline is one thing, and kids do need discipline, but discipline with public shaming and humiliation is not healthy punishment or parenting. It causes all sorts of other problems as the parent/child relationship continues.

For example, kids who are shamed using social media become better at hiding and lying about what they are doing.
  • They stop trusting their parent and will no longer be comfortable going to them when they are hurt or scared.
  • They may become more narcissistic as a way of over-compensating for feelings of shame and humiliation.
  • They may develop increased anger, leading to severe depression and anxiety.
  • A child whose private life becomes public is also less secure with boundaries. After all, if their parent can't be trusted to protect them, who can they trust?
Parents need to discipline their kids, but discipline should be done within the home. Taking access to social media away from the child and allowing them to earn the parent's trust back is most effective when rules have been broken.  

If you feel at your wits end--and you want to make a point with your child--I would advise you to remember these simple rules regarding social media shaming.
  1. Remember, you're the adult. Never post something permanent when you're angry, tired or in a bad mood. Think it over for at least 24 hours.
  2. Keep family business within the family. Shaming your kids, your spouse or your friends says more about you than it does them.
  3. Children are vulnerable in regard to their self-esteem because they're still in the process of learning who they are. A public humiliation could permanently damage their sense of self.
  4. If you have any apprehensions about posting anything, don't post it.
  5. If you want to stop the behavior, begin with talking to your child. It's common courtesy. Since you are modeling for your child, reflect on what you are modeling when you post something that is going to humiliate them.
Parenting a child is difficult, and your job is to protect your child and help them become successful, well-adjusted adults. Social media outlets can be helpful to parents and children, but using a social media outlet to shame or punish your child is not wise. What you post never goes away, nor do the scars they cause.

Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at and more about Rapini at

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