'Abandoned Baby' Video Posted Online When Mom Dares to Refill Plate at Buffet

baby in a baby carrier

Forget about the government becoming a "nanny state." We moms have a new problem: the bystander nanny-cam. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, anyone with a smartphone can record a moment in time and share it with thousands of strangers online. If that video happens to invite public shaming of someone's parenting skills, so much the better!

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The latest victims of this phenomenon are an as-yet-unnamed couple from Sandusky, Ohio. They went out to eat last week at the China Dragon Buffet restaurant, bringing their young baby with them in a carrier. At one point during their meal, the parents got up to go back to the buffet, leaving their infant in the booth. They returned about four minutes later and continued eating.

The sight of a child left alone spurred a man in a neighboring booth to get out his cell phone and videotape the child until the parents returned. He posted the footage on Facebook, where it got 4 million views and resulted in a police investigation, during which the man took the video off Facebook.

A good deed by a concerned citizen? Uh-uh. A true Good Samaritan would have checked to make sure the baby was actually in danger. This child was barely old enough to turn over, much less wriggle out of the straps of a baby carrier. The video shows that the infant was quiet and showed no signs of distress.

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Even the police chief in charge of the investigation, according to Fox News, said, "Can we say that because the parent walked out of the screen shot of this video and left the child unattended in the booth that there was a significant risk of injury to that child? I'm not sure we can."

What about the danger of kidnapping? Well, if you care enough to keep an eye on an infant whose parents stepped away to get a refill of lo mein, then you sure as heck should have the decency to step in or scream bloody murder if you notice a stranger sneaking up to grab the baby's carrier.

Nope. Clearly, this man's sole motive for taking and posting the video was to paint this couple as irresponsible fools who needed a lesson in child care -- and to get as many people as possible to share in the shaming. He didn't want to help the baby; he just wanted to have his smug can-I-get-an-amen moment.

The video may not even reflect what really happened. As any film student can tell you, the camera only tells the story that the director wants you to see. The baby's mom reportedly told police that she had been nearby the entire time, and accused the man of deliberately keeping her out of the frame to create a damning picture of child neglect.

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So now we moms have something new to keep us awake at night: the knowledge that junior Big Brothers are all around us, phones at the ready, almost daring us to make a parenting misstep so that they can hit the record button and make us the laughingstock of the Internet.

We also have the uneasy knowledge that our smallest decisions can create the biggest problems. Dare to dash into the convenience store for a quart of milk while the kids sit in the car, or move 20 feet away from an infant to fill a buffet plate, and you'll find yourself being called an unfit mother by a million strangers -- or, worse, slapped in handcuffs.

Interestingly, our Facebook feeds are loaded not only with bad-mommy videos like this one, but also with memes sighing about the good old days when kids freely roamed their neighborhoods till the streetlights came on. Decades ago, new moms even parked their baby carriages outside the supermarket without fear of stranger danger -- or strangers with cell phones, for that matter.

"Click and Share if you grew up this way and survived!" is the typical closing remark.

What we ignore is that past generations survived those times not because crime was lower, but because moms looked out for one another and helped keep the worst from happening. If they saw a fellow mother trying to enjoy a dinner out while tending to a little one, they'd be more likely to lend a hand than to take a picture.

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Would it be so hard for us to reclaim those days by ignoring the online critics and refusing to criticize our parent-peers until we know the whole story? By offering to help rather than rolling our eyes and shaking our heads? By using our common sense to figure out when a child is in real danger, instead of rushing to call the police because something maybe, possibly, could be somewhat likely to happen?

Here's to the day when we stop using our phones as instruments of mom-shaming and go back to their intended purpose: watching hilarious cat videos.

 

Image via iStock.com/ia_64 

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