Video of young boy being publicly shamed for alleged bullying sparks debate about effective parenting

·3-min read
Video of child’s public punishment for bullying sparks debate (TikTok / @usert0c8co0flo)
Video of child’s public punishment for bullying sparks debate (TikTok / @usert0c8co0flo)

A video showing a young boy being publicly shamed for allegedly bullying has sparked a debate about parenting tactics and public humiliation as a punishment.

On Tuesday, a man named Gavin, who goes by the username @usert0c8co0flo on TikTok, uploaded a video taken from his car, which showed a child standing on a street corner holding a sign that read: “I am a bully. Honk if you hate bullies.”

In the clip, Gavin zoomed in on the sign before filming a couple, assumed to be the boy’s parents, who can be seen sitting in lawn chairs a short distance away and watching.

“‘Honk if you hate bullies. I am a bully,’” Gavin read off the sign, before adding: “Dude, that’s so foul.”

The clip concluded with the person sitting in the passenger seat of the car adding: “I want to yell at the parents,” while Gavin wrote in the caption of the clip: “Dad [is] a bully.”

The video, which has since been viewed more than 3.78m times, has sparked a conversation about the public punishment, with many siding with the boy’s parents and praising the tactic, while others have criticised the choice to publicly humiliate a child.

“I am fine with it. Stop bullying at all costs!” one person commented, while another said: “Y’all are too sensitive. You have no idea what that little boy could have done or said to another child.”

Someone else claimed: “That’s good parenting right there.”

However, others suggested that the punishment wasn’t an effective tool for deterring the behaviour, with one viewer claiming that “publicly embarrassing your child isn’t the way to fix the problem”.

“His parents probably bully him at home so he goes and bullies someone weaker,” they added.

Another person claimed that “discipline is okay” but that “public discipline is not going to teach them anything”.

“Embarrassment causes trauma to both the child and their relationship with their parents,” someone else wrote. “Not excusing his actions but public humiliation is damaging.”

In a follow-up video, Gavin appeared to defend his opinion by showing a series of articles and studies criticising public humiliation as a punishment, with one study claiming that “humiliating punishments can do more harm than good for children”.

“The research is pretty clear that it’s never appropriate to shame a child, or to make a child feel degraded or diminished,” Andy Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan, previously said, according to LiveScience. Instead, he said: “Positive things have a much more powerful effect on shaping behaviour than any punishment.”

The video also includes a screenshot of an article published by ScaryMommy, titled: “Publicly Humiliating Kids And Calling It Discipline Is Barbaric”.

According to some experts, such as child development expert Marlena Romer, a senior behavioural health clinician at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the tactic of public shaming is harmful because “shaming can be destructive to who [children] are as their identity forms”.

“Shaming doesn’t teach them what to do, it just punishes them for doing it,” she added. “Over time you’re going to see a long-term buildup of resentment.”

In the comments under his video, Gavin again defended his stance, writing: “Bullying is wrong but ultimately the goal should be to stop this behaviour, this form of punishment just perpetuates it.”

The Independent has contacted Gavin for comment.

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