What are we teaching kids with the viral #PutYourShoesOn challenge?

OPINION: This social media challenge is particularly concerning because it reflects and potentially contributes to the epidemic of violence that is at the heart of American culture.

Editor’s Note: The following article is an editorial, and the views expressed are those of the author. Read more opinions on the Grio.

A healthy parent would never intentionally endanger their child or create unnecessary fear for their own entertainment. But the latest viral TikTok trend with parents terrorizing and laughing at children’s distress and garnering more laughs by sharing it publicly tests that notion.

The #PutYourShoesOn challenge asks parents to film their child’s response as the parent instructs them to “put on your shoes and help me fight” an adult who may be accompanied by a child their child’s age. Parents prank their children for clicks, likes and shares – the digital currency that many people use to determine their own sense of worth.

This challenge, supposedly designed to be humorous, has gotten more than five million views as of July 14, according to Distractify.com. The videos, which involve a multiracial cast of parents and children from all walks of life, often have the parent touting the results with captions like: “He stays ready“, “It’s time to set it up, son,” “When your baby with all the smoke” and “The boy couldn’t put on his shoes fast enough.”

The trend has expanded to sometimes include older siblings and other family members, but my main concern is with those that involve parents and children, especially young children who aren’t old enough yet. to resist or to think for themselves due to the stage of their brain. development.

There have been other viral video trends on several high traffic platforms in the digital universe over the years. We have seen relatives crush cakes on the faces of children, throw cheese on them, “accidentally » throw water in their faces, hitting stuffed animals to scare children into eating meals, to cut one’s hair as punishment and incur other forms of digital shame.

But this #PutYourShoesOn challenge is particularly concerning because it reflects and potentially contributes to the epidemic of violence that is at the heart of American culture. It’s a continuation of a video trend where parents encourage their kids to fight other kids — at school and in the neighborhood — by cheering on the kids and sometimes joining in on them. Sites like YouTube and WorldStar are full of these videos.

At the same time we see an increase in school violence– students attacking other students as well as teachers and administrators – some for TikTok challenges. Schools are also dealing with parents who come to campus to fight students, teachers and other parents.

One of my main concerns is that this challenge shines a bright light on parents who are clearly preparing their children – especially black, brown, and economically disadvantaged white children – for the school-to-prison pipeline and culture sponsored by the state.

By tricking them into reacting mindlessly with violent behavior, these children are more likely to act out in school and on the streets, where systems are poised to further fracture their family structures and damage their young lives through foster care, juvenile detention and even prison.

We cannot ignore the damage done to a child’s developing psyche when their parents tape them for public entertainment, judgment and ridicule on the internet, where content can live on forever and haunt them as they grows.

But while schools try to promote nonviolent conflict resolution and anti-bullying programs, social media challenges encourage overall violence by emphasizing entertainment value. And these challenges fuel an appetite to see adults commit mental, emotional and psychological violence against their own children.

So should we be surprised that children bring such negative behavior to the streets and schools when it is normalized at home? These social media trends make it harder than ever to try to prevent it or promote healthier alternatives to conflict.

Some of the kids are instantly ready to fight in the #PutYourShoesOn videos, which raises important questions: What happened in their early childhood that got them so ready to jump badly and defend their family bigs? What about their environment helped shape their rapidly developing neural pathways to prepare them for conflict and violence in the first place?

Ironically, these scenarios can act as a toxic form of parent-child bonding and solidarity, fostering a sense of “us against the world.” Although developmentally inappropriate, these dynamics can help a child feel responsible for the well-being of their parents long before they reach adulthood. Rather than helping these young people develop the life skills they will need to overcome life’s challenges and conflicts in healthy ways, too many of us normalize dysfunction.

The media is weighing in on this #PutYourShoesOn challenge. Newsweek calls it “hilarious, fun and harmless”. Your Tango note how this sparks debate. Parents magazine cites the “polarizing trend” and Distract reports how he has “split social media”.

TV commentator and Temple teacher Marc Lamont Hill said on Twitter: “It makes me sad when I see children being publicly exploited for their influence on the internet. Whether it’s intentionally making them cry, inflicting humiliating punishments, or exposing their most intimate moments, we must all do better to protect their dignity and innocence.

Even the hosts of the hugely popular radio show The breakfast club have publicly shared their opposing views on this new challenge. The often controversial Charlamagne Tha God criticizes it as traumatic for children. “I don’t like people laughing at their kids’ pain, traumatizing those kids for likes and reposts,” Charlamagne said. “I hate it. You have kids crying on the internet scared to death because you want to go viral. I think that’s crazy.

For once, I agree with Charlamagne. Instead of protecting their children, these parents ask them to indulge in violence. While this is happening under the guise of a prank joke, I wonder if parents are making these videos to reinforce the sense that their very young children are ready to act as protectors.

The children in these videos, which range from toddlers to teenagers, reacted in different ways.

You see some of them instantly go into fight or flight mode, their eyes widening and their bodies stiffening. Many obey instantly, seeming willing and sometimes eager to help their parents fight.

Some of the children are clearly resisting, crying or even falling over, terrified at the thought. Others seem curious or confused and ask their parents questions before acting. And some children outright refuse the invitation to throw hands with their parent.

Worryingly, some of these children demonstrate more mature judgment than their parents, suggesting that the overall family dynamic is dysfunctional in the first place.

We have to wonder what kind of burdens these challenge videos place on a child, especially once they realize they are being pranked by a parent who made and will post the video, probably without her child’s consent, to entertain thousands of strangers.

While some people see these challenges as harmless family fun, those of us who study child development and the impact of toxic stress on children’s brains view these times very differently. Children’s brains are not fully wired to regulate their emotions or to intellectually deconstruct and understand what happened to them and why their parents take perverse pleasure in their distress. These scenarios seem real in a child’s mind. PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety and phobias are just some of the negative imprints that remain in a child’s subconscious or unconscious as a result of these experiences.

If we cannot rely on parents not only to teach but also to model healthy behaviors for their children, what kind of society are we creating? What messages do we send when we’re ready to enjoy a few laughs at the expense of a young child who has no say in the fact that his parent jumped on a social media challenge to save him, the taunt and humiliate him like circus animals and immortalize him forever?

Stacey Patton is an award-winning journalist and the author of That Mean Old Yesterday, Spare the Kids: Why Whipping Children Won’t Save Black America, and the upcoming Strung Up: The Lynching of Black Children in Jim Crow America.

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