Social Media Shaming as a Parenting Strategy

Computer screen with You Tube


It can be difficult to get through to teens using traditional parenting strategies.  Every parent knows how frustrating it can be to connect with a distant teen. Before long, frustration can turn to anger and anger leads to fear. For parents, that fear originates from this one thought: “What if I can’t protect my teen because she won’t listen?”

Many parents turn to creative means of reaching their kids, but some take it too far. Enter: social media shaming. Blasting your teen on social media may seem like a dramatic way to drive your point home, but is it the best way? Experts answer with a resounding no!

What are the effects of parent shaming on social media? Social media shaming of kids can have lasting psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide. 

Oddly enough, this kind of last-ditch effort of discouraged parents isn’t a new thing, and it’s certainly not limited to the parenting world. Public humiliation has been a form of punishment since humanity’s beginnings. It’s just much more public now that the whole world can see what’s going on.

When we look closer at social media shaming as a parenting tactic and its effects on kids, it becomes clear that the repercussions can be lasting and devastating. That harm reaches further than the kids themselves; it can damage the entire family unit. There are far better ways to help children get back on a healthy and productive path.

Why Do Parents Shame Their Kids on Social Media?

As parents, we’re right in the mid-teen years.  It’s not easy. Teenagers can be difficult to talk to, stubborn to the point of disrespect, and act out in surprisingly creative ways. For harried parents, it’s a recipe for exasperation that can bring a sense of hopelessness.

Since kids spend so much time on social media, sharing every last detail of their lives, it’s natural for parents to look at it as a way to punish their kids. In and of itself, social media isn’t a bad thing. Trying to meet kids on familiar ground isn’t a bad idea either. The problems start when parents mistakenly use social media to embarrass their kids in an attempt to make them behave.

They Were Shamed Too

Sometimes, parents were publicly shamed themselves as kids. It was just as painful to be called out and ridiculed in front of family, friends, and strangers. Because their parents did it to them, they feel that it’s an acceptable way to handle their own teens. They learned it and now emulate it because they don’t know any other way.

An Understandable Act of Desperation

Shaming kids on social media is rarely meant as an act of cruelty. It usually doesn’t come from a place of trying to harm children, rather it comes from a place of desperation. Social media shaming is often seen as a punishment, as the last tool in the toolbox of parenting when nothing else has worked.

Shaming Teens Out of Fear

Teen in hoodieParenting can feel lonely and confusing. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals, you know. Yet, it’s easy to forget that teens are struggling, too. We’re often blind to their suffering because we’re so caught up in being “good” parents and trying to protect our babies. Plus, it’s scary to lose control!

When teens first begin pulling away from their parents, it can be frightening for both parties. We’ve spent so many years guarding, protecting, and nurturing these little humans that it’s scary to think of them stepping away from our sheltering wings. We, as parents, can see the danger signs in the world, but often feel powerless to stop our kids from walking right into trouble.

The loss of control is sometimes the catalyst for the desperate act of using social media to punish kids. It’s the only place kids seem to care about these days, right? So, let’s get them where they live!

But that act of desperation causes lasting, sometimes irreparable harm.

The Prevalence of Parent Shaming on Social Media

Laptop search you tubeA quick search on Youtube for “child-shaming videos” brings up a staggering 30,000 examples, plus some. That’s over 30,000 times a child has been shamed by their parents publicly. While suicide rates skyrocket and social media bullying climbs, do we really need to add parental shaming to the mix?

Teens are under an inordinate amount of stress these days. Yes, the teen years have always been a minefield of hormones and confusion, but modern times have escalated the stress to painful levels. Some kids act out in inappropriate ways despite the best efforts of their parents.

Regaining Control Through Social Media Shaming

Desperation leads some of these flustered adults to choose the public shaming method of regaining control. As each new video is posted on Youtube and each new image ends up on Facebook or Instagram, the damage increases. The parents are sometimes praised by other frustrated parents from around the world and the videos and images go viral. That encourages more parents to try a similar approach, and the cycle continues.

While these actions may stop kids from misbehaving, and the parents once again have a sense of control over their kids, it’s only temporary. Teens often fall back into old patterns, sometimes choosing more elaborate and dangerous paths than before.

Worse yet, the damage of public shaming is lasting. Not only will there be psychological effects for years to come, but the internet is forever. Those images and videos will circulate for eternity, your child’s shame forever on display for a worldwide audience.

Girl with back to camera looking over water.Effects of Parent Shaming on Social Media

The harmful effects of social media shaming are well documented. Doctors, psychologists, social workers, and a variety of professionals who work with teens all agree. Social media shaming by parents can hurt teens to the point of self-harm and suicide.

While suicide is one end of the extreme, there are many other harmful effects that kids may endure after being shamed on social media by their parents.

Kids Learn Not to Trust Parents

One of the scariest lasting effects of public shaming is that kids will soon learn not to trust their parents. It is the ultimate act of betrayal. Instead of providing a supportive, loving environment, a parent who chooses to shame their kid on social media will be proving they can’t be trusted.

See related: The 6 Best Ways to Build Trust in Your Teen

Loss of Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

When you remove the trust and safety from childhood, you cause emotional damage that carries over into adulthood. This loss of trust and support can lead to failed relationships, poor work performance, and depression, all stemming from low self-esteem. After all, if a child feels like they can’t be loved and protected by their own parents, how can they find love and protection out in the world?

See related: Why is My Teenage Daughter so Mean to Me?

Teen boy looking down at phone.Kids Often Behave Worse After Social Media Shaming

Good behavior and compliance can be short-lived after a devastating public shaming. After some time, kids often seek other ways to rebel, often choosing more dangerous avenues to express their anger and resentment.

Alternatives to Parent Shaming on Social Media

I hope it’s clear by now how damaging social media shaming can be. But, now that we’ve explored it in detail, I’d like to offer some proven alternatives to help guide your teen back to the right path.

Model Empathy

When you show empathy and compassion to your children, they will learn to behave in a similar way. When you show empathy to your child, you show them that they matter. Empathy shows children that you hear them and understand.

When you empathize with a struggling teen, you have an opportunity to validate their feelings. That validation goes a long way in proving to your child that you can be trusted and that you truly do love them unconditionally.

Positive Reinforcement

When your kid was a toddler and they presented you with a colorful scribble, you probably made a big deal about it. To your child, this was a reward for doing something good. Each positive thing your young child did, you praised them for. At some point, some parents forget to give positive reinforcement. Instead of praising their teen for good behavior, they are only focused on correcting bad behavior.

If this sounds familiar, try praising your teen for putting their clothes away, washing the dishes, or completing their homework. Thank them for being polite and considerate. Point out things that you’re proud of.

Don’t Be Afraid to Apologize

apologizeListen. We’re not robots. We’re not perfect. Even adults make mistakes, and it’s important to let your teens see that side of you. If you happen to say something unfair or harsh, apologize for it once you’ve calmed down. When you apologize to a teen, you show them that you are human and that you make mistakes, too. Not only will you take the first steps to smooth over a rough patch, but you’ll be modeling respectful and loving behavior, too.

Talk to Your Kids

Life is busy, but you should always make time to talk to your teens. The simple act of asking how their day is going builds small connections over time. Each small moment of connection is added to the foundation of love and trust you first began building when your child was small.

See related: How to Talk to Your Teen So You Both Win

Use Social Media to Praise, Not Shame

Just because it’s harmful to use social media to shame your kids, it doesn’t mean you can’t use the internet as a parenting tool at all. In fact, social media is a great place to reward your teens. Point out proud moments so everyone can see what a great kid they are.


Shaming doesn’t work. Isn’t it about time we all found better ways to handle issues with trust, kindness, and respect? After all, our kids are learning about the world by watching how we behave toward them and toward one another.

Related Questions

Should parents shame teens on social media? Experts agree that parents should never shame teens on social media. It can lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide. Choose positive reinforcement and counseling to help struggling teens.

Is public shaming on social media acceptable? For adults behaving in anti-social, racist, sexist, or other harmful ways, social media shaming may be acceptable. However, it is never acceptable to shame a child on social media, including teens.

Do Parents Shame Parents on Social Media? I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on parents shaming their kids on social media. Yet, there’s a similar attack on parents happening all over the internet. That’s right. Parents are often the targets of social media shaming by other parents! And it isn’t only the parents suffering. That behavior affects children on a deep level.


Girl with headphones

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