Presidential children have always been in the media’s eye. From Jenna and Barbara Bush’s DUI drama in June 2001 to Malia Obama’s little marijuana incident in August of last year, even their smallest foibles and follies are constantly in the news. In recent years, it has become even harder to avoid the public eye, and for a child with famous parents, the results of this media attention can be detrimental to their lifestyle.
Most recently, Barron, the 10-year-old son of President Donald Trump, has come under fire on social media. With people posting disparaging comments about the child’s character and making assumptions about the boy’s personality based on nothing but photos and video footage they see on the news. Comments such as “Barron Trump will be mutilating cats on the White House lawn in like, two weeks,” and most recently, Saturday Night Live’s screenwriter Katie Rich’s post, which said, “Barron Trump will be this country’s first homeschool shooter,” have made headlines recently for their bullying nature. These comments not only dehumanize and stigmatize Barron Trump for simply being the son of a president people do not agree with, but they prove to be excellent example of how poorly adults misuse social media.
Cyberbullying is not new by any means — more than 28 percent of middle and high school students have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lives, according to a 2016 study done by researchers from the Cyberbullying Research Center. With social media being so readily available for children’s use, it should come as no surprise that this is still a large problem in the United States and the world. In an interesting twist, first lady Melania Trump has dedicated her official duties to campaigning to end cyberbullying. While she plans to focus it toward children, it is often more applicable to the dissatisfied and opinionated adults who use the internet.
More and more, you see people posting their opinions on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The relative anonymity of these sites makes it seem easy for people to speak disparagingly about whomever they want with seemingly little consequences. However, this is not necessarily the case.
According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University, the definition of libel is “a method of defamation expressed by print, writing, pictures, signs, effigies, or any communication embodied in physical form that is injurious to a person’s reputation, exposes a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or injures a person in his/her business or profession.”
To prosecute someone in a libel case, one must prove four things: that the accused (defendant) wrote a defamatory message, that the accuser (plaintiff) suffered injury or loss in some way, that the message was published and received by others and that the plaintiff could identify the accuser in some way. This seems to be a bunch of legal jargon, but it actually applies to people in today’s society more than in any other time.
On the internet, nothing goes away. If you were having a bad day in 2011 and ranted about your jerk of a boss on Facebook, that is still out there. If your boss felt that you complaining about the way he runs his business was going to hurt his reputation or his customer flow in any way, he could easily find this status and legally prove that you committed libel. Now, this is not supposed to make you run home and delete any heated post you have ever made — very rarely do libel cases ever revolve around the “average person.” However, this fact is meant to point out just how serious your social media presence can be taken. For adults, the ramifications of defaming another person’s character, even someone you don’t know personally, can be not only offensive and hurtful, but also illegal. It is very easy to forget this, as well as the simple problem of hurting another’s feelings, when we
Social media is taken much too lightly. The effect that words have on a person’s – especially a child’s – outlook on life is astounding. Barron Trump is a 10-year-old child from New York. He goes to school, has friends, most likely fights with his parents about bedtime and does all of the things a normal 10-year-old would do. He may ride a limo to school and live in a penthouse, but that does not make him any less of a human, and that does not mean he has any less of a right to be a child. As former first daughter Chelsea Clinton said recently in a tweet of her own, “Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does – to be a kid. Standing up for every kid also means opposing @POTUS policies that hurt kids.”
Barron Trump did not choose to be the son of our president, nor does he have any power over the choices his father makes. Barron Trump, like any other child, deserves the chance to make his own destiny, no matter what his parents do. Barron Trump is not his father. So, to all the adults out there shaming people based on their parents’ life decisions: How would you feel if your parents’ actions determined your destiny? We forget that the anonymity of social media can also take away our humanity — be careful of what you post, because hiding behind a Twitter handle will only work for so long.