You see a man shouting at a child, maybe even laying hands on her and immediately, you whip out your phone to take a video that you later upload onto social media.
The clip goes viral and the man gets slammed viciously online. He could even get arrested for his actions… but is that a good thing?
In case it isn’t clear, I am referring to the video in which a little girl was made to kneel at IKEA Tampines carpark, while being berated by a very angry man who appeared to be her father. She was then slapped by him so forcefully that she almost lost her balance.
The man could be clearly heard shouting at the girl to “kneel down properly”, while pointing at her in a stern manner. The entire clip lasted about 20 seconds.
The incident was filmed and uploaded onto Stomp by an anonymous netizen, and subsequently news outlets reported that the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the police were investigating the matter.
It also got the attention of the masses on social media, with plenty of netizens shocked over how the girl was treated. Most agreed that the man had been too harsh in disciplining her, especially given that it took place in a public area.
One netizen said he is “glad MSF and police (are) investigating” the matter, while another added that “no one deserves such public humiliation”.
Evonne Lek, a family therapist and systemic psychotherapist with over 17 years of experience working with children, told The Pride that from the girl’s body language in the video, she appeared “passive and resigned to being slapped by the man”, adding that there is a very real possibility that it was not the first time that it has happened.
“I would classify this as physical and emotional abuse. The adults might think that they are only disciplining the girl, but this is not the way to instil values. By making the girl kneel in public and to take the slap without response, they are creating a girl with low self-esteem and no self-respect,” said Lek.
Stomp reported that the person who had uploaded the video wrote that the man “shouldn’t embarrass his daughter in public places like this”.
But by publicising the video through Stomp, isn’t the person who filmed the video also embarrassing and humiliating the man, and more critically, the little girl who is supposedly the victim of the whole incident?
The Stomper would have done so with the knowledge and probably hope that it would go viral and as a result, expose the man’s actions towards the young girl.
But was that the best thing to do? Shouldn’t the victim’s privacy have been considered first?
Lek pointed out that “it is always better not to post any videos or photos with children online”, as it may lead to them being recognised in public. With the “CSI skills” that our netizens possess today, identifying the man in the video, and subsequently as a result of it, the girl, would be a real possibility.
“It would definitely have been wiser and kinder to go directly to MSF or the police with the video, rather than having it go viral and publicly shaming the family… Now that the video has gone public, the girl will probably be feeling very embarrassed and ashamed,” Lek said.
Lek also said the girl may have the belief that she is the one who caused all the trouble and feel even more guilty as a result. Her friends in school may also be talking about it as well, and this will also affect her.
“She will need to have lots of reassurance that she is not the one to blame and that she did not create this situation,” Lek added.
But what if she doesn’t get that reassurance? And what if, instead of getting a sympathetic response as a victim, she gets teased or shamed by her schoolmates over the way she was punished by her father? Wouldn’t that cause more harm than good?
Additionally, we wouldn’t know how the girl’s father would react to the video going viral. He could have also blamed the girl for the turn of events that led to the whole situation, and inflicted more pain on her.
Indeed, as Lek pointed out, instead of uploading the video of the incident on Stomp or on social media, going to the police and the MSF privately would have been the better thing to do.
Public shaming is an issue that has been around for some time and it isn’t going away overnight.
But while such public shaming may be well-intended – usually, kindness to the victim as this could end or alleviate the suffering – it would be wiser to think hard before pressing the upload button and consider all other options available, especially when there is a child in the picture.
For there could be a kinder way to help the victim in need, if that is indeed the intention.