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Is It OK for Parents to Embarrass Kids Online?

Is it ok for parents to embarrass kids online?   This question is more complex than it seems.  Let’s consider the elements involved.

First, let’s admit that most parents will at least unintentionally do this from time to time.  Think about the picture you just posted of little Janey . . . the one from her first birthday . . . you know, when she was WEARING her chocolate birthday cake.  Cute?  Yes.  Embarrassing for now-teen Janie?  Probably.   Is it ok for you to embarrass Janie online in this manner?  Probably . . . as long as you are doing it with good intentions.  If you are posting the picture because you are creating a digital scrapbook of your family’s years together, then that’s great.  If today is Janie’s 18th birthday, and you are posting the earlier picture as a nostalgic remember-when, that’s great.  If Janie’s spilled her cosmetics in her bedroom and you are angry at the mess she made, so you posted the picture to show her what a slob she’s always been, well, read below for punitive posts online.

Second, let’s consider the value of humor.  If yours is a humorous family, things done in jest are often fair game.  If 16-year-old Tommy locked his keys in his car TWICE yesterday, it’s probably ok (and expected) for one or both of his parents to hop on his Facebook page and post something about getting Tommy a car with a keyless ignition so that he can actually DRIVE his car from time to time, rather than sitting outside it and admiring only its exterior because he can’t get in the car.  “LOL!”  That’s ok.  However, if yours is not a humorous family, Tommy may perceive such a post as a public criticism.  That is not ok (see below).

Finally, let’s consider punitive posts and public criticism or ridicule.  For example, Dad posts online a shaming picture of Chris who just accidentally pooped in the shower.   This is not ok.  Punitive matters and criticism should be handled privately, between parent and child.  Ridicule is never appropriate.

In sum, whether or not it’s ok for parents to embarrass kids online must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  It depends on the reason for the post and the personality of the family and its members.

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