Published by Ana Etxebarria

A couple of weekends ago, my family endured a six-hour car trip, and even though our car is not equipped with a DVD player it was made more bearable when I passed our iPads to our children. Despite being 5 and 6 years old respectively, they have already figured out how to play with them and look up videos on YouTube, so that kept them busy for a good while.

Later on, however, I found out that they hadn’t been playing or watching videos but rather taking videos! Much of it consisted of the back of my head and the conversation I was having with her father, nothing more, really. We had said nothing inappropriate, though my husband and I thought the kids were concentrated on their video games.

Those recordings made me think of two recent YouTube parenting episodes. The first was a much-publicized video showing a man, a judge by trade, beating his daughter. The victimized kid posted it to expose the abuse and prevent her sister from going through the same nightmare. It led to public condemnation of the father, who was placed under a temporary restraining order banning him from visiting his younger daughter.

The second was a cute video showing a dog responding to a toddler’s temper tantrum. Viewers can hear the mother laughing as she records the interaction. Here’s the clip:

Whereas the angry response to the first video was justified, some of the responses to the second were too harsh in my opinion.

The mother wrote a blog response that told of her shock at both the popularity of the video and, later, at the tone and content of many of the anonymous comments, including one that condemned her for doing ”nothing” as her baby cried.

Here is an excerpt from her letter:

“First I was angry – clearly this person didn’t have kids or they would know that coddling your child isn’t the answer to stopping every tantrum a 2-year-old has. I’ll let this roll off my shoulders… wait…  people think I’m a bad mom after watching this? Hold the Internet presses. We’re shutting down. No more video. No shows, no news reports. What if social services calls and says I’m raising my child incorrectly? Can I possibly defend myself?”

And the question is precisely that: Can she? Should she have to?

In the first example above, the video depicted abuse. It’s a good thing abusive parents have something to worry about but, should the rest of us be on guard, too?

More and more YouTube is part of our lives as parents. We are uploading many of the videos and soon, our children will be publicizing our daily lives, complete with our debatable parenting methods and mistakes.

What if my daughter secretly taped my bad mood this morning and emailed it around? Or, what about what I consider happy moments, such as my two children racing each other down the block? I might record that and send it to their grandparents, but if the video was passed on to YouTube, other people could anonymously criticize me for letting them run and shout. Would I have been so relaxed if I thought there was an audience?

Does the electronic age mean we should always consider ourselves parenting in public as if we were in some kind of “Truman Show” or Big Brother? If so, will that make us better parents?