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Courtesy: Jennifer Venditti on Facebook

As we head into Father’s Day weekend, it’s a time to reflect on all the positive things dads do to enrich a child’s life. Instead, some people are questioning one dad in the wake of the tragic alligator incident at Disney World. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, think before you type. I believe this family has suffered enough, and needs support on a weekend that won’t hold the same joy for them that it likely will hold for you.

Orlando alligator social media backlash

Social media has changed how we cover news stories. In addition to rushing out of the station to get reaction at the scene, we also rush to social media to see what people are saying. There’ no doubt social media plays a valuable role in news-gathering. However, the comments during tragedy and during daily news coverage can sometimes be cruel. It’s easier to type something than say it to someone’s face. When there’s a terrible tragedy, the haters come out. They criticize and judge the actions of others at a time of great grief. Remember, hindsight is 20/20. Instead of saying – could’ve, should’ve, would’ve – let’s embrace those who need it most.

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No matter what news story I cover, I always look for perspective. I like to put issues in context. For me, this photo from Jennifer Venditti’s Facebook page summed it up. Another mom who was visiting the same Disney resort and her soon too played in the water at the edge of the sand just minutes before the alligator attack. It could have been her son or any other child visiting the resort. The photo shows the clarity of the water, how inviting it is, and how easy it is for a child to dip their feet into it. There might be no swimming signs, but is that the same as dipping your feet in water? If there’s a beach leading to a waterway, I can see how a curious child would be intrigued to put their feet in the water.

PRAY, PRAY so hard for the family & for those who witnessed this tragic event. I took these pics at the exact spot this…

Posted by Jennifer Venditti on Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Think before you judge other parents

I am not here to say who is right and who is wrong. As a journalist, there are two sides to every story. I can see how the parents thought the water was safe because the child was simply putting his toes in. I doubt alligators were even on their mind. I can also see how Disney thinks it did enough by adding signs about swimming. Now, they’re adding more signs and fencing to make sure everyone knows there may be alligators in the water. It’s not time to debate who is right and who is wrong. The courts will decide that if it comes to that. All I’m saying is that we should all look for perspective and context before passing judgment especially in such a horrific tragedy. This family has lost enough. Their precious two-year old is gone forever. Their vacation of their dreams taken from them. They’ll likely second-guess their decisions for life. At a time like this, they need support more than anything. Not criticism for actions any one of us may have duplicated if presented with the same set of circumstances. It’s hard to say what you will do until you’re in the same situation.

As parents, we have it tough enough already. We’re always judged. It’s unfortunate when other parents try to knock us down. I recently overheard a mom at a checkout counter explaining why her son had an iPad in the shopping cart. Obviously, she felt onlookers were judging her for allowing her son to use it. She explained that the electronic device is reserved for special occasions like shopping. She didn’t have to explain anything. It’ how she parents. Yet it’s just one example of how often parents feel they are judged and have to give an explanation for their actions.

With social media, that judgment is loud and clear all the time. Mommy shaming. Daddy shaming. Parental shaming. Whatever you want to call it. I see it all the time when a tragedy happens. The Internet world always thinks they would’ve acted differently to prevent such an incident. That’s because it’s easy to say could’ve, would’ve, should’ve after an incident as hindsight is 20/20.

After the incident, there were headlines that the family wouldn’t be charged in the alligator incident. If you watched any of the coverage, it was obvious from the moment this happened that authorities believed this was simply a terrible tragedy. While it is news that investigators are now saying there will be no charges, it’s just a small part of the story. I don’t think we really need a headline about it. Was it because of all the social media criticism?

These parents obviously are not neglectful, and don’t need the attention of authorities. By all accounts, they are a loving family that cared for their children and wanted the best for them including a memorable trip to Disney. They ended up with the worst memories possible.

No doubt there are parents out there who should not be parents. They leave their children in filth at home, abuse them, or neglect them. We all know who those parents are. Think of those mugshots of parents who are arrested for mistreating their children. These Disney parents are not those parents.

An accident is simply that – an accident. It’s something you didn’t expect to happen and perhaps wouldn’t want to happen again if you could redo the events leading up to the incident. From the beginning, investigators said this is just an accident. Investigators have never had reason to believe otherwise. So, let’s think before we type.

We’ve had enough tragedies this week. There are many memorable moments of compassion and support that are etched in my mind. Let’s create a few for this family too. Isn’t that what you’d want if you were in their shoes?

As you honor the dads in your life this weekend, remember that dad from Nebraska who was trying to make memories only to have that memory turn into the worst one a dad could ever imagine.