A mother’s letter to The Onion about the Quvenzhané Wallis tweet

    Dear Onion,

    I’m not sure whether to scream at you or thank you.  I am completely appalled by the tweet you sent out about Quvenzhané Wallis, a 9-year-old actress nominated for an Academy Award for her work in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”  While I am outraged at the dignity and honor you tried to steal from that little girl, your actions highlight something I’ve been struggling with for awhile. 

    I have a teenage son, with a few more siblings to raise behind him.  He is a great kid, but he is growing up in a technological labyrinth where inappropriate and shocking content is everywhere.  In fact, it has quickly become THE NORM.

    And because it is the norm, if we object to it as parents or just as humans, it puts us “outside the norm.”  It is difficult to be outside the norm for many reasons.  At the most basic level, it’s a swim upstream.  It makes me grateful for all those years I spent at swim practice.

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    So when I sit down with my son to review his online behavior, I point out where I think he’s stepped outside of our three simple guidelines of asking:

    1. Is it safe?

    2. Is it kind?

    3. Is it appropriate?

    When he argues that I don’t understand, that something is “just a joke,” and that everyone is doing it, I realize that he is right.  I don’t understand.  The jokes aren’t funny.  And yes, everyone is doing it.

    When I was a little girl thinking about “the future,” it was definitely with a naive glimpse.  In fact, it was a cartoon view.  Probably due to many afternoons spent watching “The Jetsons,” I pictured a world with lots more lights and buttons and flying things, but essentially the same value system as the one I was being raised in.

    It seems that last part is even more naive than imagining a cartoon world.  Value systems are ever-changing and have been that way forever.  But our age of technology accelerates that shift at lightning speed.  So quickly that I worry we barely have time to even notice the shift.

    It’s tough to keep up with the pace.  It’s difficult to object to such a pervasive cultural attitude and have any idea what to do about it.  But dear Onion, your tweet was so disgusting that it’s helped us all to notice the cosmic shift we’re raising our children under.  Your tweet highlights several points I’ve been struggling to show my son:

    First, that anything we do electronically takes on a life of its own that we have no control over.  That we can lose friends, social position, jobs, and even our reputation in just a single moment of distasteful online behavior.

    And second, and far more importantly, as my grandmother would say, it’s just not nice. 

    Behind every tweet, text message, Facebook status, Instagram post or Snapchat update, there is a real person who is hurt by the images, memes, and jokes that are liked, shared, and posted.  Sadly, it seems that it’s taken the damage done to a 9-year-old girl to get us to pay any real attention to that.

    So as a long time reader and as a mother of a 9-year-old girl, I don’t accept your apology.  It’s sad that I am able to continue this conversation with my son at young Quvenzhané Wallis’ expense. She should have been celebrated last night, and instead, you chose to try and knock her down.  As my grandmother would have said, if she were still here, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Sincerely,Jen Bradley, mom of 4

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