Parents angry about Facebook use now have their poster child. He's a dad wielding a .45 pistol, who posted a YouTube video showing him firing bullets through his daughter's laptop computer as an act of discipline.
The shooter, who identifies himself as Tommy Jordan from North Carolina, has not yet responded to requests for comment, so it's not possible to verify the authenticity of the stunt, in which he allegedly “executed” the laptop after his daughter posted a profanity-laced note on her Facebook page.
No matter: it’s sparked a firestorm of debate. In less than 24 hours, the laptop-pistol video has garnered more than 1.5 million views, many of them parents cheering the uploader's depiction of tough love.
"I thought the video was great. I can only imagine the look on his daughter's face when she saw that on her Facebook page," wrote one.
"Sometimes to get your point across to a child (especially a teenager) you have to get their attention. These days that's hard to do. So he found a way to get her attention."
Still another: "I applaud it. She'll think twice before she hits the enter button next time. PS. Nice shot."
Other parents reacted with shock at the public humiliation apparently inflicted on the teenager by her father.
Monica Vila runs an online forum for parents struggling to deal with technology and teen issues called The OnlineMom.com. She falls into the shocked crowd.
"When I saw it for the first time, I got chills," she said. "And when I saw people cheering him on, I got chills again."
She's heard from thousands of frustrated parents through her site, and she's even heard stories of parents hurling laptop computers out the window when children were disobedient. But she's never seen such a public attempt to embarrass a child.
The shooter in the video isn't acting like a parent, she said: he's acting like a peer, taking out his frustration.
"For the life of me I can't understand what the lesson here is," she said. "If you think about it, he basically just threw a similar temper tantrum to the one his daughter threw, except this one with bullets."
In the video, the man says his daughter had posted a profanity-laced comment on Facebook criticizing him, believing he couldn't see it. Using his skills as an IT worker, he did, a fact he mentions several times in the 8-minute video.
"Her actions merited some punishment, but he's basically saying, I'm more badass than you," said Vila. "Plus, the way the whole thing is choreographed. It's not about parenting. It's about him, he's mad, and he has a gun."
Parents have plenty of reason to feel angry -- even desperate -- about kids' use of social networks. It's not unusual that they'd try something extreme to get their kids' attention, she said.
"I do see the frustration parents feel," she said. "But the applause of other parents saying, 'Yay,' comes from their unwillingness to jump in and be parents in the platform that their kids are playing in."
Betsy Brown Braun, a child development and behavior specialist, is sympathetic to the anger parents feel when faced with rebellious teen-agers. She even conceded that the video has high entertainment value, with the dad puffing on a cigarette while sporting a cowboy hat.
"The reason it's gotten people cheering it on is because parents are frustrated, she said. “ Teenagers are impossible. He was doing what any parent would like to do. They are living vicariously through him."
In fact, most parents have probably fantasized about doing something similar. The difference is, they thought better of it, Braun said.
"The sane parents have stopped themselves," she said. "The difference between a sane, mature person and a child is that the mature parent is able to stop their impulses and do appropriate things that can help a child grow. It may not be what you want to do right now, what feels good, but it's the thing that's going to benefit the child three months, six months, years from now.”
When Braun works with parents, she often hears some version of, "You don't know what it's like!" But as the mother of triplets, she had to deal with three teenagers at once. Some of her experiences are chronicled in the books she’s written on raising children, including "Just Tell Me What To Say,” and “You're Not the Boss of Me."
She said her main concern about the father's actions in the video is the example they set.
"This models exactly what you don't want kids to do when they are upset," she said. "This is about how you handle rage. It's the
poorest example of shooting from the hip you could imagine."
But she saw something in the video that many observers might have missed.
"I heard this as a cry for help. This guy is in trouble. The communication is so bad between them that, in this case, they are both acting like angry 5-year-olds," she said. "Teenagers can really be impossible. ... You get to the point where you say, 'I've had it. You are driving me crazy!' But he needs other tools for dealing with this."
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