Experts: Online Shaming By Parents Bullying, Alternative Forms Of Discipline

Isolated on blue, beautiful cute little caucasian blond girl in pink shirt, black trousers and glasses holds empty poster, tired

Online bullying is a problem that’s plaguing our society. Perhaps made more evident by the actions of adults in this no-holds-bar world of tweet storms and Facebook attacks, online bullying doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. But now experts say that parents can actually bully their own children online – even before those children have social media accounts.

online shaming by parents is bullying - The Everyday Mom Life

We’ve all seen the signs – literally. A parent posts a photo of their child or children on social media holding a sign that’s meant to embarrass them as a form of punishment.

Online Shaming By Parents Is Bullying

Parenting expert and Toronto family counsellor Alyson Schafer said this is actually a form of online bullying and something that needs to stop.

“Unfortunately, that’s not the way discipline works,” she said in an interview with the CBC. “When we use punitive [measures] — and in this case, extremely punitive because this is public shaming and humiliation — it’s not only shredding the relationship between the parent and child, but it’s also damaging the child’s self-esteem and is very hurtful to the soul.”

The debate was sparked again recently when a mom in Canada made her two sons walk more than four miles carrying a cardboard sign saying:





She posted the photo on Facebook and it quickly went viral. The mother said she administered the punishment after she received a call from the boys’ school saying if their behavior didn’t improve they would no longer be able to ride the bus.

The mother walked with the boys on the walk and said she wanted to help them understand that riding the bus is a privilege.

Charles Helwig, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Toronto, told the CBC that research has shown putting the photo online adds to potential embarrassment and is harmful.

“When you put it on social media, it’s essentially permanent, so it’s something that can come back to haunt the children throughout their lives,” he said. “Publicizing it in this way is something that can’t be taken back.”

He added that in “psychological control” as a means of trying to improve behavior is also associated with an increased incidence of depression and anxiety in children.

According to new research published in the March edition of Trends in Cognitive Sciences children as young as 5-years-old begin to care about their reputations and kids will change their behavior based up how they believe it will impact their overall image.

Schafer said kids can’t differentiate between their behavior and themselves as a person, so they hear, “I’m bad,” when really it was the action that’s undesirable. This can result in kids believing they’re unlovable and effect their own self-worth.

So what can you do?

Separate the action from the person

Schafer said she tries to separate “the deed from the doer.” For instance, parents can say, “I love you but I don’t like how you’re (fill in the blank),” Even really young children can understand this and it reinforces their lovability.

Gain an understanding of the psychological reasons behind the actions

Understanding the reason behind the action is vital. Were the kids on the bus trying to impress their friends? What were the kids attempting to gain in acting that way?

“We have to find out what the psychological underpinnings are of the child’s motivations and help him understand,” Schafer said. “Give him the skill sets to find his sense of importance and belonging through constructive means.”

Explain the reasons why the behavior was inappropriate

Long-term parents should explain why the behavior was wrong and help your child understand the other side of the perspective, said Helwig. Ask, “How would you feel if this were done to you?”

Children will respond more better to this than online shaming and be more likely to be more positively impacted.

Seek professional assistance

If the behavior continues to go on and on Helwig suggests that parents seek professional help in dealing with children.

If it, “is indicative of some broad pattern that isn’t being brought under control, then the parent should seek professional assistance,” he said. “It might be a reflection of something else going on.”

For more news and research click here. For additional health posts click here.


  1. I never thought about the bullying aspect of parents posting these pictures. Then again, I never thought to put up a picture like that of my own kids either. Thanks for the thought-provoking article

  2. These are wonderful tips. I love the attention bullying and similar actions are getting. It’s hard when it’s our children, but anyone can be influenced.

  3. There are so many different forms of bullying these days, it’s really quite sad. That said, you gave some sound advice on this subject. Kudos.

  4. This is so true! We can just ignore her kids and expect them to know the right thing to do. We have to talk to them and teach them right & wrong and empathy. And they need to be disciplined in love not in anger.

  5. I’m glad you’re mentioning something! I’m active on social media, but I try very carefully not to post anything about my kids that they would be embarrassed about later in life.

  6. It’s so sad how frequently we either talk about or hear about bullying. Growing up, there was much bullying! So sad but this post was super informative

  7. I find it cruel that parents are doing this to their children even if the child is the bully. They are children. I don’t think it is necessary for them to post it online, its permanent thing and never temporary.

  8. Although I wouldn’t shame my child online, I didn’t realize all of the negative impacts it would have on them. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

  9. This is definitely bullying, and can cause severe trust issues between the children and their parent(s). There are so many more healthy ways of disciplining bad behaviour in children, and you’ve done an excellent job of outlining many of those. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. This si so true! I’ve seen videos and whatnot of parents shaming their kids all over the internet, and all I can think is how overwhelmingly terrible that must make the kids feel.

  11. While I am a firm believer that children need to be disciplined, I agree that publicly shaming your kids online is definitely not the way to go. They could do the discipline in private… not for millions of people online to see.

  12. bullying is in every corner of us. This is a great subject to give us information about bullying. Shaming your kids in online is a big NO NO.

  13. I agree 100%. If we, their parents, can treat them in this negative way who exactly are their safe persons? If children are bullied at home God help them as the enter the world.

  14. Ug. I don’t know why anyone resorts to public, online methods. It’s so bad, and yes – there are MANY viable alternatives!


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