The headline said it all—or did it? Jen Vuk explains why parents should think twice before jumping on the indignation bandwagon.
‘This Mom Doesn’t Force Her Kids to Share’, screamed the headline. ‘And Her Explanation Is Going Viral’.
That’s it, I thought to myself. The world has officially lost its mind…not to mention its manners.
Of course, like everything on the big bad web, the story wasn’t quite as straightforward as the headline suggested. Here’s the rundown. US mother Alanya Kolberg recently took her young son, Carson, to a park when six other children rushed at him wanting to play with his toys.
“As they grabbed at the Transformer, truck and Minecraft figure, Kolberg told her overwhelmed son that he could say no,” Marissa Laliberte reported in Reader’s Digest.
Kolberg went on to explain that Carson didn’t have a problem with sharing—he’d brought the toys so he could surprise another friend with them—but, like many children his age, he was still working out the boundaries of human interaction.
Sounds pretty reasonable, I thought, and yet the post drew hundreds of responses both for and against Kolberg and her style of parenting. As for me, what the story illustrated was the growing phenomenon known as ‘Parents Who Quickly Jump on the Indignation Bandwagon’.
I should know. Not so long ago I was one of them, but after some years of this parenting business I’ve created my own four-point safety check:
Get past the headline
With our fast-paced online world and limited concentration spans, clickbait has become part and parcel of the way we retrieve and disseminate information.
Defined as “a mostly pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material online”, for parents clickbait has all hallmarks of fast food— it provides a ‘hit’, but leaves us feeling guilty, and more than a little bloated.
Take a deep breath
Mindfulness is all around us, so why not apply it when we scroll through our Facebook feed? Of course, most of us live busy lives and it’s hard to read closely everything that comes our way. Well, then, don’t! Be choosy and discerning. Remember your time is precious; don’t waste it on misinformation.
Look for the nuance
The general rule of thumb for journalists writing news copy is that the most important information (what, where, why, who, when) can be found in the first three to four paragraphs. If this isn’t part of the copy, then, quite clearly, it isn’t strictly news (so please don’t treat it as such).
In addition, if you read it closely enough, the nuance (such as the author’s bias, for instance) does eventually reveal itself.
And remember…no parent is perfect
When it comes to parenting posts and articles you’ll find there’s a pattern of ‘divide and conquer’. After all, nothing excites advertisers as much as a good old stoush (it keeps the story in the news and therefore advertisers are keen to hitch their wagon to it).
Don’t play into their hands. We all know that, while it’s one of the best things we’ll ever do, parenting can also be a hard slog. We’re all trying our best, so next time the indignation bandwagon rolls into town, rather than try to get yourself a seat, give those on board a friendly wave as it passes by.