TikTok is a varied place, full of cute dance moves, disturbing “challenges,” weird food hacks, and earnest parenting tips. And in yet another strange corner of TikTok lives a genre of videos we absolutely do not need: The (often fake) practice of parents publicly disciplining or shaming their children for views and likes.
Some of these so-called disciplinary techniques seem obviously rehearsed if not totally fake. The kids often appear to know they’re being recorded and may seem fairly unsurprised by bedroom doors being taken off their hinges, a couch being overturned (while they’re on it), or electronics being smashed to pieces with a hammer.
Popular TikToker @derek_hensley recently snagged the attention of Wall Street Journal columnist Julie Jargon after one such video resulted in him being reported to his local child protective services agency. Jargon writes:
Mr. Hensley said it was the children’s idea for him to create a TikTok account. They told him he’s funny and that his videos could do well. But he said he didn’t set out to make videos that appeared to embarrass them. He said he was fixing a door one day, having removed it from its hinges, when the Cardi B song “WAP” popped into his head. He started singing his own version: “Ain’t no doors in this house… We ain’t raising brats.” He decided it could be the basis of a video.
The video, which he first posted on Nov. 8, got 5.7 million views.
Comments rolled in, such as, “Now that’s parenting done the right way” and “Right on dad! Good job.”
I’m not generally a fan of TikTok — it’s the place teenagers go to take part in stupid, dangerous shit like the “Skull Breaker Challenge” or the “Benadryl Challenge.” It’s also the place where actual parents have gone to mock people with disabilities or genetic diseases. But I have discovered...Read more
From there, Hensley went on to toss a Christmas tree out the front door, dump a cup full of water onto one kid’s head to rouse them up to clean their room, drop a cell phone into a beverage, slam one TV into the floor over an apparent sibling “argument,” and smash up another TV with a guitar (the video that reportedly led to the call to CPS).
Similarly, Insider reported last year about a dad who smashed up his kids’ TV and gaming controllers with a baseball bat, which he later said was a skit and that he was disposing of toys and electronics that were no longer usable. (Why is it so funny to smash up expensive electronics that could possibly be sold or refurbished?)
It’s unclear how widespread the “watch me (pretend to) discipline or shame my kids in ever-increasingly antagonistic ways” phenomenon is. Here’s what TikTok told the Wall Street Journal about these types of videos:
“While we can’t begin to comment on the individual discipline choices parents make for their families, our policies for TikTok focus on our commitment to the safety of minors,” a TikTok spokeswoman said, explaining that, per the app’s community guidelines, TikTok removes content that depicts or promotes physical abuse or psychological disparagement of minors. “We have not observed a notable volume of videos depicting parents or caregivers disciplining children and violating our community guidelines,” she said.
If parents are actually publicly disciplining their kids with bullying tactics on social media, that’s obviously awful and needs to stop for the safety and well-being of the child.
But even if no child is being physically or emotionally harmed in the making of these videos, it is content none of us need. Besides simply not being funny — and teaching kids to smash things up with baseball bats in exchange for internet popularity — the acting is sometimes good enough to fool another user into thinking they’ve just hit upon the next greatest disciplinary tactic. One person’s “funny” skit is another person’s inspiration from the unspoken permission to go do the same.