The BLOG: Culture

Parent shaming: The new social media trend

parent shaming

(Adobe Stock photo)

They name call. They bash. They judge. Many times, they don’t know the person, the situation, or all of the details. But, that doesn’t stop them. I’m talking about social media blamers and shamers. I call them cowards.

What leads them to spread hateful messages? Maybe it’s because they can hide behind the keyboard. Maybe they are insecure, jealous or scared. But, whatever the reason, they are nasty.

We live in a world where information is instantaneous. From 24-hour news outlets to social media, we have the latest trending stories constantly in front of us.

According to this latest research, people in the U.S. check their social media accounts 17 times a day. And you can guarantee that when a story goes viral, the trolls will attack.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen this happen to two families. Two families who have gone through hell. Two families who never imagined that this would be their fate. One of those families is now without a son.

In that tragic accident, two-year old Lane Graves was killed by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort. The animal described as being as long as 7 feet snatched the toddler as he waded in shallow water around nightfall. The beach, located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa across a lake from the Magic Kingdom, had “no swimming” signs but did not warn about alligators. Many children have been seen playing there on multiple occasions.

Immediately following the incident, his parents were bashed on social media. The trolls were blaming and shaming the parents for what happened. Instead of supporting the family, mothers and fathers were tearing them down.

Imagine…you lose your son in a horrific accident. It’s all over the news. And instead of people showing their support and helping you, they are blaming you for your child’s death. As a mother, I can’t even imagine what they are going through.

In recent days, many bloggers and parents have come to the Graves’ defense and are asking the so called “perfect parents” who are quick to blame to back off. Blogger and mother of four Melissa Fenton wrote a blog and Facebook post begging readers to “stop blaming and shaming other parents” in the wake of unthinkable tragic accidents.

In the article, she says, “At the funeral for this 2-year-boy who died in front of his parents, can you do me a favor? Can you walk up to the mother and say the words that you just typed out last week? Can you?”

I applaud Melissa for writing this. I challenge any person who is quick to blame a parent in any type of tragedy to think about that as they use social media as a sounding board.

A couple of weeks ago, a little boy slipped into a gorilla’s habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. In order to save the boy, Zoo officials shot the 17-year old gorilla.

Immediately after the story hit social media, people accused the parents of being negligent. Some even suggested the boy’s parents should be held criminally responsible for the incident.

Two petition drives were launched on social media. The first, #JusticeForHarambe, which sought to have the boy’s mother held accountable for the gorilla’s death and have her children removed from her home, had collected 205,000 supporters within a couple of days.

On Twitter, people wrote comments like “shoot the mother.” And a Facebook post from a North Carolina woman said, “I had MUCH rather see her dead than the gorilla.”

A memorial vigil for the gorilla was advertised on Facebook and drew people to the zoo on Memorial Day…a national holiday that is supposed to be set aside to honor the country’s war dead. But that’s another whole blog.

From petitions to hateful messages, these trolls will do whatever they can to hurt another person as they sit behind the screen.

Many of these cowards will continue to blame and shame others for whatever sick and twisted reason, but I just hope that some of them will think before they hit send.

I want them to know that these horrific events can happen to any of them. Nobody is immune. As a parent, we have all at one time said “where is our child.” They are quick and curious. As good as parents as we are….we are human.

Instead of tearing each other down, how about supporting each other. Use social media as a positive outlet, not a negative one.

I would love to know your thoughts on this. Please share them!

Alison Podworski is the owner of Alison May Public Relations. She is also a keynote speaker on public relations, crisis communications and reputation management. You can find her on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.