May 22nd, 2012
03:58 PM ET

Girl grew from online punishment, mom says

When ReShonda Tate Billingsley let her daughter open an Instagram account, the Houston novelist made clear to her what would be appropriate to post to the picture-sharing site.

So the mother wasn’t impressed when she saw a couple of weeks ago that the 12-year-old took a picture of herself with unopened alcohol bottle from her father’s bar and posted it with the caption, “Wish I could drink this vodka.”

Billingsley decided the online faux pas should also be punished online.

She not only temporarily banned her daughter from Instagram, the mom took a picture of her daughter holding a sign announcing her punishment (but not showing most of her face). She posted it to her daughter’s Instagram account to chastise her and to the mother’s own public Facebook page, hoping to persuade other parents to monitor their kids’ online activity.

“Since I want to post photos of me holding liquor, I am obviously not ready for social media and will be taking a hiatus until I learn what I should and should not post. Bye-bye,” the sign read.

Within hours, more than 10,000 people shared Billingsley’s Facebook post, and hundreds of others shared it on Twitter. She says she didn’t expect so much attention, but she thinks it’s made the lesson more effective.

“She saw how this picture has gone viral, but … now she sees that if it had been the picture of vodka that went viral, it could have ruined her life,” Billingsley said Tuesday. “It’s vodka today, but it could be underwear five years from now if this isn’t nipped in the bud (and she doesn’t learn) the consequences of posting on social media.”

The story was picked up by media sites around the globe, and Billingsley, author of a number of adult and teen fiction books, wrote about her decision in a column on parenting site She said the vast majority of the reaction has been positive, with many parents writing to her that they subsequently learned that their own children had posted things they didn’t approve of. Others remarked that the chastisement was appropriate and helped them talk to their children about what’s appropriate on social media.

“It was a welcome conversation for my 12-year-old who doesn’t have any social media! And she saw your story (and) doesn’t wanna go down that road,” one person wrote on her Facebook fan page.

About 3%, Billingsley said, had negative reactions, calling her a cyberbully or saying her daughter would hate her forever.

“You have manipulated your child's feelings with humiliation in an attempt to control her,” a person wrote on the fan page. "You claim that you have done this to teach her a lesson about what she puts on the Internet is difficult to remove. This article is going to follow her for the rest of her life and in a negative way.”

Billingsley wrote on that this is a new age, and “we have to meet kids where they are.”

“She begged to get a spanking instead or some other punishment,” Billingsley said. “But the strongest message was to meet her on her level, because she would have taken a spanking and been over it in 20 minutes.”

Her daughter was horrified at first, but by the second day, she was taking comfort from her friends, who didn’t tease her but rather called her mom crazy, Billingsley said. The girl then asked her mom to delete the vodka photo from Instagram.

“She saw the consequences. She said, ‘I wish I had never done that,’ ” Billingsley said.

The girl now intends to start a group at her middle school that will talk about using social media responsibly, said Billingsley, a former reporter for Houston TV station KRIV.

“Social media is here to stay. We just have to teach our kids how to navigate it properly,” she said.

KTRK: Teen’s punishment goes viral on Internet

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Filed under: Social media • Technology • Texas
soundoff (382 Responses)
  1. Macy

    I am proud of this mom and grateful. Proud that she found a constructive way to teach her daughter a valuable lesson and that she has stuck to her guns about it. My kids are not at the age where they have any kind of social media accounts or even exposure but I will keep this in mind when they do. Yet another example of letting kids have some freedoms but still keeping an eye out on them. If a child is on the internet parents, MONITOR THEM!!!

    May 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Voiceofsanity

    Humiliation can screw up kids permanently, you guys need to take some psychology classes.

    May 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 1-800-Penguin Attorney

    What a crazy mom.

    May 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Renee

    My view as a grandparent is that many many parents are opening the door for their children's misuse of social media by allowing them to lie about their age. They are so worried about their child not "fitting in" with their peers that they ignore the mounting pressures to fit in by engaging in all sorts of inappropriate behaviour for their age. So-parents – get smart and get some control back over your kids- soon enough you will have none.

    May 26, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. cathy

    Poor thing, she humiliated her family, embarrassed and betrayed their trust, but how could they do the same to her??? Imagine that!!!

    May 26, 2012 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. cathy

    Poor baby! She embarrassed her parents, humiliated them, dishonoured their name, but how dare they do the same thing to her! How in the world could they do that!!

    May 26, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. Uma

    I **love** it! This mom is a smart cookie. I agree with her approach; she had to make her daughter get it. I think people without kids think her approach was cruel or unkind. It's not. I have 2 kids, one's a teen. We are in an age where we have to keep up with our kids' online activity as well as texting, etc. We're the first generation doing this, so we're learning, too. We have to get our kids' attention that certain behavior is NOT ok. I applaud this mom.

    May 26, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. I was Annie

    Good for mom....The most effective punishment is one that REALLY don't want. If it doesn't feel like a punishment, then it's not going to be a deterent. As for "humiliating her", mom obviously cares enough about her daughter to keep her from humiliating herself, if only more kids had parents like that.

    May 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Martin

    CLEARLY... this parent is win... Kids these days have no clue what the hell to do with life... and not enough parents care these days... Seeing parents that ACTUALLY parent and rear their children is a blessing... SAD TRUTH... Seth sounds like a teenager who doesnt want his mommy finding out he cusses and swears behind her back but thinks he's thug and GANGSTER... throw up the SIGNS and what not... PULL UP YOUR DAMN PANTS... 26 yr old male from GA...

    May 27, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. My2Cents

    I have no problem with the lesson she is teaching her child about what and what not to post. Most parents don't discipline their children just to be mean, it's done to teach lessons, this was a painless lesson, embarrassing perhaps, but what if it had in fact been a picture of the girl undressed... then this young lady would have to live with it being on the internet the rest of her life. For those saying it was a horrible thing to embarrass this child like this... well most of you probably don't have kids to begin with, when you have your own and try to protect them from freaks on the internet, come back and talk to me about how embarrassed they are. There are those that gripe when parents don't take responsiblity and there are those that gripe when parents do. Not everyone is going to do it the same, but I must say I would rather this picture be out there of her holding a sign as opposed to one of undress. Good going Mom!!! Don't pay any attention to the haters, they have no clue about trying to keep kids safe on the internet these days.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rex Feral

    I bet we don't read about this young girl getting in trouble with the law or engaging in gang activity in the future. This mother really loves her daughter and knows that she has great potential and mom will go to great lengths to make sure of that. Too bad more parents don't take care of business like this.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AmericanSam

    Humiliation is not the answer.

    June 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Haleene

    Kids are all different, but obviously this mother knew what would work on her daughter, so that she would not go any further in the new cyber world that could have effected her allot worse then the punishment did.
    It's time we quite saying kids will be kids, cause though that is true, what they do today is so much more serious and life lasting. They need to think their actions out before doing them, more now then ever before. Hope other kids and parents got the message from this situation.

    June 18, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Best Internet Income Opportunity

    I'm really inspired along with your writing abilities as neatly as with the format in your blog. Is this a paid subject or did you modify it your self? Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it is rare to peer a nice weblog like this one today..

    July 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. josephavellino

    Let's get a photo of ReShonda. Why do I have a feeling like she is a bit overweight. Why don't we have her hold a sign saying that she is part of our health epidemic in this country.

    Goodness forbid this, a-hem, "mother" invested some time in helping her daughter understand issues around alcohol use & abuse. Or goodness forbid this mother actually spent time figuring out how to engage in meaningful dialogue with her daughter. But, nope. Have her write a sign, humiliate her and get back to packing on the pounds.

    August 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
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