‘100% how they identify themselves’: Therapist explains the urge for kids to go ‘viral’

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — A Central Florida Mental Health Therapist wants to help local parents and their kids avoid getting into trouble in the name of going “viral” online.


That’s what happened to a Seminole County girl last week who now knows fame isn’t always a good thing. The Jackson Heights Middle School student posted a video filled with racial slurs to TikTok, she says, in an attempt to go viral.

READ: 1 dead, 1 injured after planes crash at Orlando Executive Airport

The girl’s mother says she was distraught, and that her daughter simply made a mistake in an effort to get more followers on social media after trying to copy a similar video she saw online.

“I was hurt that my daughter even had posted something like that,” the girl’s mother said. “This girl winded up getting a lot of followers and she thought, ‘oh, maybe I can get more followers than her with the video.’”

The girl’s mother said they had been monitoring her accounts, took the video down as soon as they saw it, punished her, then contacted WFTV to share the story.

READ: Central Florida high school to increase security Friday after threat made on social media

Cherlette McCullough, a Winter Park-based mental health therapist, says she wants to help parents prevent their kids from falling into the same trap.

“It is 100 percent of how they identify themselves,” McCullough said. “It is the way that they communicate with each other. It’s the way that they validate each other.”

McCullough said one place to start is by addressing the elephants in the room.

READ: Deputies: Man accused of killing partner, stepson; raping young woman in Lake County

After watching the unedited video, McCullough said she saw a girl who wanted attention, and to be popular…and who may not have had enough understanding about racial issues in America to see that her copycat idea would be problematic.

It’s a reason McCullough says parents of all colors need to teach their kids at home about race, social media and the context of our society, before their ignorance causes harm.

“What is offensive talk, what words we stay away from, and why we stay away from those words, and asking your children have they experienced any violations around social media, and really working through and talking through those things with your children,” McCullough said.

READ: Jury returns guilty verdict in ‘ghost candidate’ case against GOP leader in Seminole County

The girl who made the video was asked to stay away from school for a few days, and her parents banned her from the internet for a while.

However, McCullough says the social consequences can lead a young mind down a path toward self harm.

The girl’s parents alluded to that as well as they asked the community- the other parents and their kids- to forgive her.

READ: Orlando woman charged in fatal shooting over Instagram ‘trash talk’

“I totally understand,” the girl’s mother said. “I accept all the feelings from all these people, and I wish I could take it all away, but it can also affect any child to hurting themselves in the wrong way.”

The school district has said they’re investigating the incident, and that security will be stepped up at the middle school to make sure everyone is able to attend safely.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.