Once you start using the internet as a parent, there should be a basic handbook of parenting definitions sent right to your inbox — lest all the other hysterical parents on the internet scare the living daylights out of you. The first and the most important definition you’ll need to know is for “child abuse,” since you’re probably going to be called a child abuser at least once if other parents don’t agree with you.
When we have on our rational thinking caps, I’m sure we can all agree on what child abuse is. Child abuse is when a child is neglected or endangered by a caretaker. The Child Welfare Information Gateway also provides a federal definition: “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation.”
So, you can see that while child abuse can occur on a spectrum and should be taken very seriously, it is not all-encompassing. We need to spend more time as parents on the internet talking about what child abuse is not.
I have a perfect example for you. Child abuse is not letting your sweet, innocent toddler try a jalapeño for the first time, while filming it to put on YouTube. No, this more so boils down to a personal parenting decision — one I happen to find hilariously funny, as evidenced in the clip of my son eating a lemon for the first time here — that not all parents will find cute or funny. I do, you may not. Potayto, Potahto.
When this mother posted a video of her 16-month-old daughter sneaking a jalapeño off her plate to YouTube, not just a few internet commenters went crazy. While the video is not yet technically viral, with just shy of 90,000 views, it has stirred up controversy in the comments section.
A large group of commenters think this video is child abuse. Ramsey Bolton argues that it is unacceptable to offer a very hot pepper to such a young child because “they cause pain and sometimes breathlessness in adults!!” James Welch calls the mother in the video a “dumb ass parent,” saying, “If she had reached for a weapon, would you let her pull the trigger?”
These comments are, of course, followed by line after line of garbled profanity because what else would you expect from YouTube? Thankfully, there are a few sane parents in there trying to control the masses. These parents point out that plenty of other cultures feed their children spicy food at a young age. I personally have encouraged both of my sons to try almost any food. Friends visiting for dinner have been amazed that my toddlers eat both hot sauce and Sriracha with the same fervor as adults.
The point here really is, whether or not you agree with this mom’s decision to give her toddler a jalapeño, it’s disrespectful to throw around the term “child abuse” lightly. All of the internet parents who are crying child abuse over this video are really crying wolf.