Minister of State in the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development Raziah Ahmed yesterday condemned the posting of a video on Facebook, showing a woman beating her daughter with a belt after the 12-year-old girl posted “indecent” pictures of herself on the site.
In the video, which was posted on the weekend, the mother was heard instructing one of the other women in the house to post the video online.
In Michigan, United States, a similar video was posted, in which a mother hit an 11-year-old boy more than 50 times with a belt and later posted the video on Facebook. The county prosecutor, David Leyton, later announced the boy’s mother, 28-year-old Demitria Latrion Powell, of Flint, was charged with three counts of third-degree child abuse.
When contacted on the local incident, the vice-principal of the school the girl attends said: “We have been advised we cannot make any comment. It is being dealt with. I can’t comment on whether the child reported for school or not.”
Efforts to contact the school’s principal, as well as Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, proved futile.
Via a telephone interview, Ahmed said: “I have not seen the video. But you do not further embarrass a child when a child has stepped out of line. For the simple reason, children experiment with behaviour. You do not embarrass your children when they have done things that you would not expect. You engage in reasoning. Children are exposed to so much. They are fragile. They are bombarded with so much information, which gives them so much choice.”
Ahmed added: “I could understand when a parent reacts in such a manner. We can do things like shouting, but to create a counter-video to embarrass your child is not right.”
Ahmed said the parenting role has shifted from strict disciplinarian to a more embracing technique.
She added: “It is a call for a certain level of understanding. I would not support ‘tit for tat, butter for fat’. Parents are supposed to be more morally responsible. The concept of reward and punishment does not start when the child has stepped over the boundaries. There are simple things like cutting off TV or spending rights.”
Ahmed said children were crying out for love and attention. She likened it to a “war of the roses” when both parties in a relationship go after each other as ultimately, it leads to a total breakdown in the relationship.
She said: “We have to be gentle with our children because I don’t know if they are getting all the support systems. Parents are so busy. When I see the new breed of parents, I wonder what is the reason for the breakdown. Is it they are too busy? We need to seek help with the imam, pundit, pastor or the priest. I don’t think going out on Facebook is a solution.”
The opinion on the incident expressed yesterday by Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) first vice-president Antonia De Freitas was that “posting the video may not have achieved a healthy outcome for both parents and children”.
She said: “We are seeing an increase in people using social media for things that are not positive. The Internet is of interest for teachers when they are teaching, but some of the students are transferring those ideas of negativity to the classroom. Exposing discipline in the public domain is not going to have any kind of healthy outcome she would have hoped for the child. She will be targeted and labelled by her peers, teachers and the community.”
De Freitas said there was need to change the way social media was being used, examine changing values on sexuality and the perspectives, and address the issue of health and family life in schools.
On the issue of sex education, De Freitas said: “At the secondary level, some of our teachers, who are so inclined, volunteer to talk about it. Sometimes, our lack of communication with our young people and the issue of human sexuality and dealing with their bodies has a part to play. We must not be afraid to talk to our children about the issues of gender, relationships and sexuality.”
Commenting on the issue, president of the National Parent/Teacher Association (NPTA) Zena Ramatali said, “I don’t think that is the way to go. That is not the way to discipline your child. We have to look at the man-
ner of parenting. And we have to look at the way we are using technology.”
She felt the parent needed to examine her parenting style while the child needed counselling.
She added: “You want to teach values and build your child’s self-esteem. We need human sexuality and sex education. Children could understand they have choices.
“We are parenting children in the 21st century. They are exposed to Facebook, Twitter and all the sites. We need to help them manage and understand. Whatever you put on the Internet can affect their young lives. We have to show them what are the consequences, what could come out of exposing the body on Facebook and Twitter.
“It is important to have mandatory parenting courses. We lack know-how to reach our children.”
Asked for comment, counselling psychologist Anna Maria Mora said yesterday: “I am very much against corporal punishment. So I would never think it to be right. It should not have been a story. Why are people perpetuating it (the video) and not deleting it?”