I scrolled through my Facebook feed while in pick up line and paused at a post that caught my attention.
“To the young boys in my neighborhood who got busted throwing eggs at houses, what the heck is wrong with you? Why can’t parents teach their kids respect today? How could they not teach these hoodlums better?”
I cringed in the front seat of my minivan. I slowly read through the various speculations about why these young men are depraved. Too many video games. The parents never set boundaries. Drugs.
My sense was that most people did not even know the perpetrators.
Although I lived more than 800 miles away from the incident, I had already heard about the crime from a mutual friend. Luckily her son decided not to participate in what now is referred to as “Eggmagedon,” but she knew the boys who did.
Four young teens walking home one evening from a friend’s house decided it would be fun to see what happened when you throw an egg at a tree in sub-zero temperatures. Would it freeze instantly? Would it run down the side? They had to find out.
Apparently these budding scientists could not see the results from the tree, so one of them had the brilliant idea of throwing the egg towards the light of an unoccupied house that was for sale. And then a house that was brick. And one or two more.
The next day the normally sleepy neighborhood was in an uproar. One of the victims attempted to remove the egg (which apparently will freeze onto wood) and ended up ruining some freshly painted window frames. They were not happy.
The boys confessed, and with their parents, worked things out with the homeowners directly, including paying for the cost of repairs and doing chores for the victims; however, this did not stop this woman — who did not have anything happen to her home — from sharing her opinion on social media with 850 of her closest friends, many of whom know these young men.
At one fell swoop, she judged the boys and their parents, indicting them for the world to see.
Her point is well taken. The boys screwed up and should be — will be — punished, but where is the line drawn for our children’s privacy? Or our own?
Even if we screw up. Especially when we screw up.
As the parent to three tweens, I know the road ahead will be full with pot holes. I like to think my kids have good heads on their shoulders, but that does not mean I believe they will get through the teen years without making mistakes.
And they should. We want our kids to push, explore, and question. Sometimes these actions lead to positive outcomes (defending a friend or deciding to walk away from illicit behavior), and sometimes it ends up with egg on your new siding.
What scares me about this situation the most, however, is that someone else took control of their experience and plastered it all over the internet. Someone else decided to tell these young men’s story and define their character, which, up to this moment, was positive.
I passionately talk to my daughters about social media. I show them how a text can be forwarded to a group with a single touch of a button or a message misconstrued. I lecture them about how nothing is “private” and how people are not always who they say they are. I am waiting until I feel the time is right to let them have a phone, Instagram, or Facebook.
But there is one thing I cannot protect them from, one thing even I can’t control.
I can’t protect them from you and your ability to change their lives in an instant with your iPhone. Your taking pictures, your telling their stories, your providing the context.
My daughters and I could never post on social media again, and they could still end up the laughing stock of the world wide web, whether deserved or not.
Social media feeds our narcissism. We fuel our ego under the guise of acting like public crusaders or exposing wrongdoings, even when there is no need. Revealing private information with the intent to instigate others is a blatant form of harassment. Some would argue that it is no different than sharing an experience with friends, except what you put on the internet never goes away. A public “outing” on Facebook can be far more permanent than even a scarlet letter, which at least is coverable.
When we expose other people’s mistakes — even their blatant “crimes” — on social media, we make ourselves feel better, but that shouldn’t be confused with making a difference.
As parents, what we say and do on social media matters. It isn’t always just an opportunity to connect with friends; instead, it’s an extension of our personal life. A megaphone to our outside world. And more people than our friend’s list are listening.
If we want our kids to do better, than we have to be better.
Let’s be better.
PIN IT FOR LATER:
This post was written by Whitney Fleming exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.