Tommy Jordan, father of 15 year old Hannah, had clearly been pushed to his limit when he decided to massacre his daughters laptop. Hannah had posted an incredibly disrespectful tirade on Facebook describing how miserable it was to be forced to do chores everyday and how she hated to pick up after her parents. She used several expletives in her post and generally sounded like a spoiled brat throughout her rant. She posted it in a private or blocked way so that her parents would not be able to see it but her father was a bit more tech savvy than she had anticipated and was able to view her page.
In response to his daughter’s post Tommy himself made a video in which he read verbatim Hannah’s "letter to" her parents and proceeded to publicly scold her. He then shot off a few rounds of bullets into her computer on camera and posted the entire thing to his daughter’s Facebook page. Not surprisingly the video then went viral on YouTube and responses to it have been all over the map. You can see the full video at the bottom of this post. Please be aware that it contains some harsh language.
Clearly this is not an exemplary parenting moment, although I can certainly understand this father’s frustration. It speaks to a much larger issue of general disrespect and disregard that, while typical in the teen years, has been given a new forum in social networking. It is not merely teens that are guilty of inappropriate postings on sites such as Facebook; plenty of adults are participating in this stream of consciousness type posting, devoid of any editing mechanism.
This father, while he professes to be at his wits end, had a number of other choices. I don’t fault him for “hacking” into his daughter’s Facebook account, although some may see this as a major breach of trust. Hannah apparently had a history of bad computer behavior so she had already lost the privilege of complete trust in that area. It seems to me that this dad’s public humiliation of his daughter falls under the heading of two wrongs don’t make a right. In addition to the choice to post his response on her Facebook page he also chose to smoke a cigarette and use bad language himself on the video. In fairness to Tommy, he did later state that he regretted those choices. The ultimate in bad parenting came when he took out his gun and began to assault (murder really) his daughter’s computer. This act itself was very threatening and violent.
I am 100% behind the choice to remove Hannah’s computer and to discipline her with consequences and restrictions. Maybe he could have donated the perfectly functioning computer to a school or to a child who could not afford one? The message could have been made without being shrouded in anger. Discipline that comes from a place of anger does not teach a lesson, it only instills fear and temporary obedience. The key word here is “temporary”.
Teens are hardwired to buck the system and to rebel against their parents. This may in fact come in the form of talking to friends about their frustrations at home. That is an appropriate venue for teens to let off steam, which is among the many reasons friendships are so crucial in the adolescent years. But the use of a computer, like any other privilege they are given, should depend upon the teen’s ability to behave responsibly. If they cannot do so then they should lose that privilege.
When parents give their children access to a computer, or when kids are given their own computer, they should be given clear instructions about acceptable use. Many schools require students to sign acceptable use contracts that lay out clear guidelines. Parents can do this as well with the express understanding that to violate those guidelines (visiting unsuitable sites or making inappropriate postings) means they will no longer have access to the technology for anything other than required schoolwork. There needs to be clear family rules around computer use.
Many people got great satisfaction out of Tommy Jordan’s post because of their own frustration with their teen’s social networking behavior, but the reality is that this video is most likely just an unfortunate representation of a greater parenting problem going on it the Jordan home. Both of these public displays, that of Tommy and Hannah, are now part of their history that will be recorded for posterity and frankly I find that a bit sad. Moments of teen rebellion should not define someone or leave permanent scars in the parent child relationship. They should be opportunities for growth and teens to gain a better understanding of what is required of them both at home and in society.
What is your reaction to how this dad chose to respond to his teenagers Facebook post?