Over the weekend, a YouTube video went streaking through my social feeds like a comet, only to be eclipsed by news of Whitney Houston’s death and the Grammys.
In the video, a clearly exasperated North Carolina dad reads a foul-mouthed, disrespectful post his 15 year old daughter put on Facebook, thinking she could block him from viewing it. Apparently she failed to consider that (A) her dad worked in IT, (B) she’d been busted for similar bad behavior before, and (C) in upgrading her laptop, he’d have access to her Facebook account. So in response, after reading her diatribe on the video, he shot her laptop several times with a gun and posted the video to her Facebook wall.
The video spread like wildfire for a lot of reasons.
- First, I think the whole tale of Facebook being the last stand, line-in-the-sand battleground between a rebellious teen and frustrated parents hit a nerve.
- Second, YouTube videos of things getting shot or blown up are oddly compelling, even without the additional layer of domestic drama.
- Third, you’ve got a clear opportunity for judging and condemning the behavior of others you know almost nothing about, which is like internet flypaper.
Put those three things together, and yes, you’ve absolutely got a perfect recipe for a “viral hit.”
In watching the video, and watching the reactions to the video, a few things came to mind.
Parenting is not about your ego. A few people commented that the dad overreacted because his pride had been injured by his kid’s Facebook rant. I agree that letting your ego, pride or potential embarrassment drive your parenting decisions will make for an exhausting experience for you and your kids. That said, we’re all human. If you think you’re going to get through parenting a kid to adulthood without ever making a decision motivated by embarrassment at their behavior, you don’t have any kids yet, or your kid has never had a nuclear meltdown in public. Still, often the last thing you want with a teen is to create an escalating power struggle, which is what seems to have happened with these two.
Your reaction to the video is related to your personal experiences with guns, violence and family dynamics. I grew up in a rural area, in a home with several guns. My dad actually did the whole “cleaning his guns to scare off his daughters’ boyfriends” thing. My grandpa Fred once shot a shotgun at some stray cats on his property from inside a mobile home (and no, Granny wasn’t too pleased.) My reaction to the dad using his kid’s laptop for target practice was probably different than someone with no real exposure to guns. But I grew up in a family where shooting things for entertainment was pretty typical behavior, and I also didn’t grow up in a home where there was violence or abuse. YMMV.
I’m not convinced there’s no place for “shock and awe” in the parenting playbook. Giant caveat: some kids would take what this dad did, and use it as an excuse to escalate their behavior. Then again, there are kids who would take a rational, reasoned response like getting grounded from their laptop as a sign of weakness, and immediately start concocting their next mission in “Showing Mom and Dad they’re not the boss of me.” Parenting is not a paint-by-numbers affair. We really know almost nothing about this guy and his kid, or their overall relationship. It’s a seven minute YouTube video. No matter how many views it racks up in the few weeks of shelf life it has, it’ll be a blip on the viewscreen of the internet for a nanosecond. It’s important to give kids grace and room to make mistakes. It’s also sometimes appropriate to let them see that they aren’t the masters of the universe and immune to expected or even completely unexpected consequences.