The teen girl was reportedly disciplined for not telling her parents where she was. 

By Maressa Brown
June 07, 2019
teen girl on cell phone, social media
Credit: Shutterstock

June 7, 2019

Parents have been using shame to discipline their kids for decades, but the prevalence of social media has triggered a disturbing wave of YouTube videos and Facebook posts in which parents use the threat of public humiliation to correct kids' behavior. One of the most recent examples: On Saturday, June 4, a 17-year-old girl was forced to stand in a busy intersection in Cape Coral, Florida, holding a sign that read, "I lied. I humiliated my mother and myself." A local woman named Ashley Domonique Atty captured video footage of the shaming, posting it to Facebook, where it quickly went viral.

"On our way home, we witnessed parenting at its finest," she wrote alongside the clip, which has wracked up 24K views since it was published. Atty commented on her own video, "She's lucky… in my house, she would have gotten the belt. Leave these parents alone—nothing wrong with what they are doing more than if she would have been crossing the street."

WBBH News reported that the girl was being punished for not telling her parents where she was. Her stepfather explained that the 17-year-old had lied to her mother several times, and they had given her two options for punishment. She could be grounded for the whole summer or hold the sign and be publicly shamed. “She understands, and I think she’s a better person for it because she chose to do what she needed to do to get out of the problems she had caused us,” the stepfather said.

But not all parents or parenting experts agree that a consequence like this one is appropriate or effective. According to Newsweek, a woman who wished to remain anonymous witnessed the punishment in action and called police. Of the incident, she said, "How many times have we heard already in the last couple months that kids are getting hit and killed, even an adult? You would've lost your kid for something—trying to prove a point when, in my opinion, there's much better ways to do so." points out that public shaming falls under the umbrella of "harsh parenting,” which can include physical aggression, psychological aggression, humiliation, yelling or threatening a child. Research has shown that discipline strategies like these can lead to resentment, revenge, rebellion and retreat. As if that wasn't enough, shaming and similar punishments will likely backfire. Research published in the journal PLoS One found that harsh discipline by parents significantly increases the risk of behavioral problems in children.

The bottom-line on the Cape Coral punishment? Police responded to calls from passersby and said that the girl had access to water and was fine. While that's heartening to hear, judging from research, the effects of this kind of discipline could stick with her for years to come.