SOUTHLAKE (CBSDFW.COM) – Robert Rausch knows the power of the Internet firsthand.
After he placed an ad in the Southlake Journal offering his daughter’s babysitting services for free, it went viral. And then came the virtual insults.
“We were accused of child abuse. We were accused of neglect,” he said. “We were accused of publicly humiliating our daughter. It was horrible!”
The ad was punishment for sneaking friends over after the family went to bed. As he wrote in a Fort Worth Star Telegram opinion column on June 5, “Middle-of-the-night parties are verboten in our house. Especially when you’re asleep downstairs.”
“It probably wasn’t my smartest idea,” Rausch’s daughter Kirstin said.
“We wanted her to learn something from it,” her father added.
Both parties did. Robert Rausch said he learned “you totally lose control of the situation when the Internet becomes involved.”
It was the punishment heard around the world, as complete strangers weighed in on the father’s merits as a parent.
“We thought; violate our rules and you do community service for, well, our community,” Rausch wrote in the column. “Genius, that is, until the KXAS/Channel 5 truck rolled up on the front lawn.”
It was genius, however, for their next-door neighbor Joanne Reding, whose son Kirstin babysat for free.
“This was a real positive way to get the message across,” Reding said. “’Cause I don’t think she’s done it since. I don’t think my kids will either!”
Rausch said he took to the opinion pages of the Fort Worth Star Telegram to explain his side of why he took the ad out. It wasn’t meant to humiliate the 16-year-old, he said, it was designed as a warning for other teens.
“It was really designed to be a type of cautionary tale for teenagers as well as their parents,” said Rausch.
For the Southlake dad, the tale is that it’s easy to underestimate the Internet and the passion of people on it.
“And it’s easy to underestimate how hurtful that can be,” Rausch said.