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Viral pranking mom: Teaching kids humor 'is important' 

Jan. 3, 2013 at 9:19 AM ET

When a South Dakota mom tricked her 8-year-old son into believing he accidentally purchased a $50,000 car on eBay, she couldn’t resist filming the prank.

And then, like so many before her, she posted it online.

Paula Papen, 35, addressed the flack she's gotten on YouTube for the clip, which features her son, Kenyon, bursting into tears and has received over 70,000 views.

“I heard a lot of things about my parenting,’’ Papen told Erica Hill on TODAY Thursday. “I think I caught more flack for a vertical video than even my parenting, but you kind of just have to let it roll off your back. I think, honestly, teaching your kids to have a sense of humor is pretty important, and teaching them to take a joke is a good deal, too.’’

The family had been stuck in their home in Hot Springs, S.D., for a few days around Christmas with the flu. Papen’s husband is planning to buy a fix-up car as a father-son project with Kenyon, so Kenyon was browsing cars on his mom's iPad. He found a Ford Mustang on eBay that he thought was $500 and believed he accidentally pushed the “purchase’’ button, so he shut down the iPad. Papen picked up the iPad, noted that the car was actually $50,000, and that the boy had not actually purchased it.

She then decided to have some fun. While filming with her iPhone, she asked him, “Why did you buy that $50,000 car on eBay today?”

Kenyon begins to cry.

“We’re going to have to sell everything!’’ he says tearfully in the video. “This is horrible!’’

In the background, Kenyon’s 6-year-old sister, Emily, says, “I’ll use my money to buy you a Hot Wheels!’’

Papen then tells her son, “Hey Bub. You didn’t buy it.” He goes from crying to relieved laughter.

“He has some emotional responses sometimes, and I thought it would be pretty comical,’’ Papen told Hill. “So I thought I would just record it mostly for him to watch, but it turned out to be a lot funnier than I’d anticipated.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, that was just a funny little prank,’’’ Kenyon told Hill. “I wasn’t worried.’’

Several YouTube commenters took issue with Papen's posting the clip.

“Joking around as a family is one thing, as a family we have always joked around and we love to wind each other up,’’ one commenter wrote. “But what you did to your son was cruel. When he burst into tears, that was the point where you should have put your camera down and let him know that you were joking. Instead of continuing to video him when he was upset so you could upload it to YouTube and humiliate him.”

“This is a classic example of how to teach our children not to trust anyone,’’ another wrote.

Papen doesn’t worry about lasting effects on Kenyon, who was surprised with a toy Mustang and another one for his sister at the end of the TODAY appearance.

“I think he’s just fine,’’ she said. “I don’t think it’s going to cause trust issues.”

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