Please stop watching the Facebook live video of a mom beating her kid

Jul 26, 2016 at 12:17 p.m. ET
Image: Georgia Court/Getty Images

Child discipline will probably always be one of our biggest societal bones of contention — what is and isn't appropriate, whether physical punishment like spanking is ever OK and, even more recently, whether it's productive to even raise your voice. It's a spectrum, it seems, and you're likely to fall somewhere between the two extreme ends of it.

It is unlikely that most parents will do what Shanavia Miller did, which is to beat her child, Nia Green, repeatedly with a ruler and her fists while screaming at, swearing at and calling her names — all while streaming live on Facebook for the world to see.

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Miller used Facebook's still fairly new live-streaming feature as her platform, and millions of people have been watching the resulting video, some in horror, some out of macabre fascination and some because they wholeheartedly supported Miller's decision to punish her teenager for taking and posting revealing pictures of herself, among other shouted offenses. The video has been taken down from Facebook now, but like all things conceived of and put on the internet, it lingers on in other places.

It has opened up both Green and Miller to the countless opinions of internet strangers, ranging from the aghast to the supportive, with a robust sprinkling of horrifying racism as well. Everyone has weighed in, it seems, which was exactly the point.

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People who discipline their children using corporal methods like to ward off criticism by saying that it is no one's business but their own how they handle behavioral issues. But with the rise of social media and the one-upmanship it brings with it, it's no surprise that people have taken it a step further. In those moments — the ones where we salve our own insecurities about our parenting "failures" by making sure our friends and families and complete strangers see the transference of our own embarrassments placed on our children — that it is no longer just our own business.

You can't hide behind the concept of "my child, my business" when you make every gruesome aspect of your interactions with your kids the business of every single person with a Facebook account. Perhaps Miller hoped people would see how stringent she is about raising her daughter with certain values (no matter the method she uses) and laud her for it. And some did. But more people were stunned and chagrined. We certainly were.

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Who knows if Miller would have been quite as harsh without an audience? Maybe she would have been, and if that's the case, then perhaps Green is fortunate only for the fact that people bore witness to what she regularly experiences. That's a grim stroke of "luck," considering that she'll likely bear the emotional scars of being publicly punched and struck by her mother while the world watched on in fascination.

But there is reason for concern that parents who seek affirmation and validation in their parenting choices will play it all up for the camera, which can result in pain and humiliation for their kids. It's a trend that works both ways too. Remember that mom and her haul of toys?

There is such a thing as parenting for your child. You are not required to parent for Facebook or for other people. When the focus shifts back to our kids and away from what people will think, we'll see fewer videos like this one, not because people will get wise to shutting off the camera, but because people won't feel the need to satisfy a crowd of onlookers.