Judgement By Social Media. Where is The Empathy?

Last week there were two major parenting stories to hit the news:

  • Cincinnati, USA

A 4 year old child fell into a zoo’s gorilla enclosure in Cincinnati. A 450lb male gorilla called Harambe dragged the child through water and displayed some aggressive behaviour. The zoo’s bosses made the decision to shoot dead the gorilla in order to save the child.

Harambe The Gorilla

  • Japan

A 7 year old boy was ordered out of his parent’s car on a mountain road after he had been caught throwing stones at cars and people. He was left by a forest infested with bears as punishment. His parents drove off to teach him a lesson and when they went back to get him he had gone, disappearing for 7 days. Yamato Tanooka trekked through the forest for miles and survived after finding a disused military base shelter.



Both stories are horrific. I saw the video online  of the first incident at the zoo and felt sick seeing that little boy being dragged through the water. And I remember listening to the updates on the radio about the young boy lost in a forest in Japan, thinking I don’t know how that child will ever be found alive.

Judgment by Social Media


What is perhaps more sickening, even more than the incidents themselves, is the callous, vindictive and abusive behaviour on social media of these parents.

Within hours of the video footage at the zoo going live, there were petitions and pages being set up to obtain justice for the gorilla. There was utter condemnation of the mother and messages urging her children be taken into care. Others went further demanding that the parents be shot. The abuse was so frantic and awful that the child’s mother had to delete her Twitter and Facebook account and go into hiding.

Yes it’s awful that a rare silverback gorilla had to be shot. But can you imagine the alternative if that little boy had been killed? The zoo employees would not have taken that decision lightly. Can any of us honestly say we would have behaved any differently if it was our child being dragged through the water? Would we not have screamed for something to be done?

This week it was announced that the parents would not be charged with neglect and I absolutely agree. Children can be curious, determined and lightening quick. They can get up to all sorts in the blink of an eye. Who hasn’t experienced that heart-pounding moment when you’ve turned around only to find them gone? Even if it’s for 10 seconds, it is a scary and desperate moment.

So why have so many people expressed such utter outrage and hatred on social media? Where is the empathy and compassion? This mother will most likely be berating herself for the rest of her life over that one fleeting moment that we as parents all experience.

The incident in Japan was harder to understand. Yes, it was stupid and absurd to leave a child alone by a bear infested forest even for a small amount of time. But who hasn’t become exasperated by their child for constantly misbehaving? Who hasn’t tried to find a new way to discipline or treat their child in the vague attempt to change or modify their behaviour?

The parents didn’t mean to lose their child for 7 days, they wanted to teach him a lesson. When Yamato was found, his father said, “Our behaviour as parents went too far, and that’s something I’m extremely regretful about. I thought that what I was doing was for his own good, but, yes, I realise now that I went too far.”

Do these parents also need to experience the constant abuse online from others who seem to serve as self imposed judge and jury? Surely the realisation that their child could have been killed by a decision that they’d made is enough of a punishment to endure.


Both incidents are terrible, but both stories could have ended in a much more horrific way; with both children being killed.

Surely the torment of reliving those awful days, asking themselves over and over what they should and could have done differently, is punishment enough for these parents.

Surely we need to ask ourselves whether it could well have been us that lost sight of our child for a fleeting moment or whether it could well have been us who lost our temper with our children. If a 60 second snapshot of our lives was uploaded to social media to be judged could we be certain that our behaviour as parents would be perfect or would it most likely be flawed?

Surely we all need to have much more understanding, compassion and empathy for these parents and stop judging each other.



Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear
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50 thoughts on “Judgement By Social Media. Where is The Empathy?

  1. really well said – so much judgement when the parents are already punishing themselves – heartbreaking for both families. Empathy is a beautiful thing and more people should think first before judging. A wonderful written post #KCACOLS

  2. Yes I agree entirely. One of the worse aspects of social media is the rise of the online troll. Vicious spiteful people who are happy to voice their own opinions whilst hiding behind a screen. I can’t imagine what either set of parents went through at the time. x

    1. It’s easy to sit and judge from behind a screen and yet I can’t believe parents or anyone for that matter have ever made a decision that they later regret. Xx

  3. People find it easy to vent their bile from the safety of a computer or phone. It’s vile and really needs to be addressed. It’s easy to put your high and mighty judgey knickers on when under the radar. #KCACOLS

  4. Very true and beautifully put Cheryl. I hadn’t heard about the Japanese incident but the same rules apply – unfortunately everyone becomes an expert at times like this and therefore feels able to judge. There was an interesting picture going around on Facebook that made reference to the fact that everyone is now a Zookeeper. Thanks for linking up with #KCACOLS and look forward to reading more of your lovely posts next week. Nicky x

    1. Thanks Nicky. You’re right, with social media giving everyone access to all information everyone suddenly is an expert. Less judgment and more empathy would make this world a better and kinder place! X

  5. Really well said. I think social media encourages people to say things and to judge people when they wouldn’t be so quick to do in real life. If you wouldn’t say it to their face then you shouldn’t say it on social media. As a society we need to show understanding not juddgement #bigpinklink

    1. Yes Emma, you’re right. I bet most of these people wouldn’t dare speak out if it was face to face. Let’s all show a bit more kindness and more empathy please! X

  6. I totally agree and I am not ashamed to admit that I have had parenting fail moments, which I look back on with utter disappointment in myself, usually whilst I am clutching a large glass of gin. What if one of these awful, awful things happened to me? It makes me feel sick just thinking about it.
    It’s as if every other bugger in the world is a perfect parent 100% off the time, no glitches ever. Hmmm.

    1. Yes absolutely but the point is that every parent feels this way, Surely? I don’t believe that there are parents out there that don’t have these feelings of remorse or regret about the way they’ve handled a situation and that is why we should all be a bit kinder to each other! X

  7. Everyone is always so quick to judge in these situations but as you say it could have been any one of us. Losing sight of your child for a second is all it takes for them to slip away and who hasn’t been mad at their child and perhaps done something out of character. Thank goodness the children were safe although I can’t help wondering how Yamato will be affected by his ordeal. #bigpinklink

    1. That’s right it could be anyone of us and the last thing anyone needs after going through such an awful ordeal is judgment. I agree, I think Yamato’s experience will take him a long while to recover from.

  8. I agree. All parents make mistakes, and I’m sure these parents felt bad enough about what happened without getting attacked on social media too. People are too quick to judge, especially when they don’t have to do it directly to someone’s face. #bigpinklink

  9. This is such a good post and such an important topic. The internet allows us to reach people we otherwise never would be able to reach and voice opinions we otherwise would have to keep to ourselves AND it gives us an audience and encouragement in those opinions regardless of their being right or wrong AND a level of security and anonymity in treating someone else like that.

    I don’t even think people realise they are doing it, and that they would never do that to a persons face, to a friend to someone they know they would try and see from their shoes, but online? Judge first.

    And often don’t even ask questions later, just get defensive and aggressive. Glad to know I am not the only person horrified at the issue!

    Popping in from #BigPinkLink

  10. Definitely something that needed to be said! Everyone is so quick to say what they would do if they were in the situation. They, without a second thought, try and boast their own perfection by putting another parent down, and it’s really sad. As parents, we should band together to raise this next generation. It’s why I love the blogging community so much! <3 #KCACOLS

    1. Yes it’s interesting when you think about why people do this. It could be to make themselves feel better and more perfect as a parent, it could be simply to be vindictive from the safety of a screen. Whatever the reason it’s horrible and we should as parents stick together and support each other through what can be a very hard and challenging time! You’re right, you never get this in the blogging community!

  11. Brilliantly written post and well said! I completely agree with you – yes it’s tragic about the gorilla, but really what was the alternative? As for the incident in Japan I really can’t empathise so much as I think it was completely senseless – but as you say, the parents will be reliving those 7 days over and over and there really is no need for the whole world to stand up as judge and jury x #KCACOLS

  12. The irony is that a lot of these so called ‘keyboard warriors’ are sat glued to their devices typing these abhorrent words while their children play outside unchecked. It could happen to anyone. It’s a horrible situation for all when something happens to your child, the last thing you need is a diatribe of abuse from strangers. Thanks for linking. #bigpinklink

  13. Social media is such a good thing, but then it can be terrible also. I’ve been judged, abused etc. just for trying to get my view across in a calm and civil manner. People seem to think because they’re behind a screen, they can say what they like without any consequences. #BloggerClubUK

  14. This is the reason I actually have to unplug at least once a month, for two weeks! I get so sick of all the hate that it affects me and I hate that it affects me so I turn it off and tune out for awhile so that I can center myself more. When I came back from the break I kept seeing memes about the gorilla and had no idea what was going on until I asked someone. My first response wasn’t about the parents but with the zoo and how they could have prevented it from happening in the first place. I feel bad for the gorilla but I had lost my youngest son in a zoo once when he was 2 years old. You are right, they are lightning fast when they are small and completely fearless. Thankfully, nothing happened to him but I felt for that mother because I had been in her shoes. The second child I hadn’t heard about but to be honest, I don’t think I would have been able to empathize so quickly. However, after reading the statement from the father, that would have given me pause as I know, as a parent, I have lost my temper and gone too far. We do need more empathy in the world and more understanding of one another but the internet seems to enable all of this hatred simply because of the anonymity. Popping over from #bloggerclubuk

    1. I can completely understand why you unplug every so often. Social media can dominate and take over your life at the best of time but when there’s so much abuse and hatred it can become a very depressing place to be. Thanks for reading. X

  15. Great post… Both events were horrible. I honestly thought the Japanese boy was dead, I can’t believe he survived!! I totally agree with your post but I’m also aware I’m become a lot more judgemental since becoming a parent… I think a lot of parents do as they think they’re right and everyone else is wrong (and you forget all the bad things you do as a parent!!) Every day I try to be a kinder, more empathetic person and not get sucked into online/social media debates like that! #KCACOLS

    1. I’m very aware as a parent how different we all are and how very different our parenting styles can be. We are all trying our best and should support each other more. Thanks for reading.

  16. You have a really good point about people being to quick to judge others. I’m glad in both cases there was a good out come and that both children are now safe. Sadly the same can not be said about the latest horrific story to hit the headlines, about the toddler the being dragged into the water by an alligator. I was literally in tears reading it this morning. Xx #KCACOLS

    1. I know it’s absolutely horrendous isn’t it. I’m heartbroken for the family of that little boy. I just pray that they won’t experience any of the judgement or abuse that the other two families went through. X

  17. This post couldnt have been better timed. I was up late last night waiting and hoping they would find that boy in Disney and was disgusted by the way so many on the internet were judging the parents. I’m not sure if it broke my heart or made me angry more. So many are so quick to judge and to never once think about all the times something could have gone wrong and they just got lucky it didn’t. NO matter what these stories involve real people, real families; that seems to be forgotten. #kcacols

    1. I know, I’m devastated for this poor family. What an awful thing to have to witness, I’m really hoping that there will be no judgement or abuse this time round. The parents need love and understanding. I’m not sure how they’ll ever recover. X

  18. Here here & very well said! I’m all for understanding & empathy among parents. It’s as if these people on social media suddenly forgot what it’s like to have a young child. Or maybe they somehow have extra sets or arms & eyes so that they could never take a hand or eye off of their child. It’s awful what can happen in a minute. I can understand the zoo situation more than the boy at the side of the road one. But still, those parents must have gone through such misery for those 7 days – they didn’t need all of the abuse on top of it. Thanks so much for joining us at #BloggerClubUK x

  19. I couldn’t believe the amount of abuse the parents of the toddler in America received, I mean come on screaming they should be shot, really. It’s sad that the gorilla had to be shot but it was a little boy’s life at stack here, it does make me wonder if these people are parents themselves, as I would like to think that other parents will understand that it takes a split second for your child to disappear, we’ve probably all been there or will have it happen to us at some point.
    As for the parents in Japan, I do have to say it was a bit extreme to kick him out the car and drive off, I mean ground him for gods sake, but at least they realise they where lucky to get him back alive and will hopefully not take such drastic measures next time x #KCACOLS

  20. I read a lot of the comments on the Harambe incident – some of them were absolutely sickening. I’m not a fan of the “blame the parents” line, and as you said, that could have happened to anyone. However, the Japanese one was different – those parents willingly left their child behind. Obviously they didn’t mean it to go so far, and I don’t think abusing them on social media is necessary, but I do think they have to seriously question the way they discipline their child.
    Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK 🙂

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