Why the 'crying kid' meme is just mean

Of all the internet memes that were hot in 2011, the one that most deserves to die next year is the "kids crying" meme. 

Yes, “funny” videos of kids crying have been all the rage on YouTube lately. Sounds cruel – and it kind of is.

Viewed independently, you can almost see why some of these parents thought this would be a cute moment to record for posterity. An adorable little girl weeps because the Vikings lost, again. A little boy falls to the floor and sobs because his Halloween candy is all gone.

But watch them one after the other, and a disturbing pattern emerges: Kids crying, and adults laughing. I’m all for funny kid videos and not taking parenting too seriously, but it’s starting to get creepy. Even Jimmy Kimmel seemed to realize he’d taken it a step too far when he asked viewers to tell their kids that they’d eaten all their Halloween candy, and tape the reaction. It did not go well.

“I guess I didn't expect so much crying,” Kimmel explained. Still, he showed the videos. And people laughed. Except for the kids, who are probably still wondering why their parents would mess with their heads like that.

Kimmel tested his followers -- er, viewers -- once again this month with his Christmas video challenge: Let your child open one gift early, but make it a really lousy gift. "Hilarity" at the expense of upset, crying children once again ensued.

I'll admit to a little hypocrisy here, as I do have a soft spot for "Scared of Santa" photos. But with photos, we can believe that the moment after the picture was snapped, mom or dad scooped the crying child up in their arms, comforted them, and then they all went to the playground. In a video, there's no such illusion. The kid keeps crying, and the camera keeps rolling. 

Why do we think it’s OK to laugh at kids’ emotions? Sure, the things that upset them may seem trivial to us. But football games and Halloween candy and lame presents aren’t trivial to them. And “punking” your kids puts your cheap laughs above their emotional security. Seems like a great way to teach kids to stifle their emotions – or better yet, never get excited about anything! That way, when someone pulls the rug out, your parents will have no embarrassing footage to post to YouTube.

So the next time your kid cries, do us all a favor -- put down the camcorder and be a parent.