A new TikTok trend of parents disciplining their children in an attempt to “shame” them online is booming, but also causing controversy, as some are even calling child services to report videos.
Being a parent can be frustrating at the best of times, but especially during lockdown. As TikTok has grown in popularity in the past year, some parents are using the app as a new method of discipline.
TikToker and father Derek Hensley, from Williamson, West Virginia, found himself under scrutiny for his perceived “kid shaming” online. One viral video, which amassed 10 million views, shows him removing his daughter’s bedroom door in response to her slamming it. Another video, which received 3.6 million views, shows him smashing his child’s TV after she didn’t do her chores.
Many users in the comments expressed concern for the children. “My dad was like this, and now we don’t speak anymore and he’s not allowed anywhere near my kids,” one commenter said. “As a social worker, this behavior is violent and will lead to more violent behavior from your child.”
After receiving death threats, comments from concerned users and even calls from child services, he clarified to the Wall Street Journal that the videos are in fact staged, with his children encouraging him to make a TikTok account. “My kids aren’t actually being punished in my videos,” he said. “If my kids are being disciplined, it’s not on camera, but they’re rarely in trouble anyway.”
This isn’t the first time kid shaming has gone viral on the app. In May 2020, TikTok user Brian Wells amassed criticism for smashing his children’s electronics with a hammer on camera, while berating them for not doing chores. Again, while some TikTok users were concerned at the time, Wells later clarified that these videos, like Hensley’s, were staged.
He explained in a later TikTok that the items were in fact faulty and that he thought the videos would be a funny way to dispose of the items. Although his children act shocked in the videos of their father smashing the items, they can also be seen smiling.
However, not all these videos are staged. Some concerning cases of kid shaming have gone viral on the app and caused social media users to take action. In August 2020, parent Tasha Fuller went viral after hijacking her child Alex’s TikTok. She posted a video next to her visibly upset child, who is transgender, telling people that they must refer to Alex by their deadname.
“If you can’t follow a mother’s instructions, you will be removed from their life,” she said. This led to social media users starting a #JusticeforAlex movement, which involved sharing petitions and GoFundMes in order to give Alex the funds to move out of the home they share with their parent.
While “kid shaming” may have blown up on TikTok recently, parents sharing how they punish and discipline their children online isn’t a new concept. In 2018, a father from Roanoke, Virginia, shared a video on Facebook Live where he forced his son, who had been kicked off the school bus for bullying, to run to school in the rain. “Welcome to ‘You Better Listen to Your Dad 2018,’” he said in the video that later amassed over 1.6 million views.
Dr Free Hess told the Wall Street Journal that the growing trend in staged kid shaming videos makes it difficult to draw the line. She claims that staged videos of kid shaming could potentially lead to production of real kid shaming videos.
TikTok’s community guidelines state that they remove content that depicts or promotes physical abuse or psychological disparagement of minors.