Friday, August 26, 2011

Dr. Phil, Jessica Beagley, Healthy Child Development and the "Sniff Test."

Jessica Beagley from Anchorage, Alaska was charged with misdemeanor child abuse and neglect this week for her appearance on the Dr. Phil Show and the videotape she prepared that showed her disciplining her son with hot sauce. While we have commented on the use of hot sauce for discipline previously, and you can read that here, the case has taken a new twist this week because Jessica Beagley was not charged based on the form of discipline, but for preparing the video itself. We think this raises significant questions about the role and responsibility of media in the healthy development of children and in this vein, James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, not only commented on this aspect of the case in an interview with KTVA Alaska, which you can read here, but Prevent Child Abuse America also sent the below letter to the Dr. Phil Show. We are currently awaiting a response and will provide with an update when we receive one.

Dr. Phil Show

5482 Wilshire Boulevard #1902
Los Angeles, CA 90036

To Whom It May Concern,

I would like to personally commend the important work the Dr. Phil Show seeks to do on behalf of children and their families. It is clear to me that Dr. Phil enjoys a respected following who listens and seeks to learn from his guests and his personal insights.

My appreciation however does not extend to the show involving Jessica Beagley. The conviction of Jessica Beagley this week in Anchorage for misdemeanor child abuse even more strongly makes me want to ask how a segment like that could have made it to an audience. The form of discipline involved does not have a basis in research, the apparent parental motivation appears to be self-serving and does not consider the best interest of the child and quite frankly lacks any semblance of passing a “sniff test” for what should be approved as effective programming regarding children.

At Prevent Child Abuse America our position is that all people play some role in the healthy development of children. Research indicates that when adverse experiences happen in a child’s life they can result in life-long consequences, including chronic health problems, academic under-achieving, delinquent behavior, mental illness and substance abuse.

As a respected media program entrepreneur, I applaud your show’s overall education value; in this situation, I have to ask, what are the guidelines used by your producers that would allow such a video; why would a corporate sponsor be supportive of this type of show and what kind of oversight is provided to the producers to ensure this type of segment is not allowed again? Needless to say, I wonder why people would ever want to see something like this.

Finally, in light of the behavior displayed in this video we recommend that you review the mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting requirements for the state of California to make sure you are in compliance and train relevant staff

I look forward to speaking further with you about this story and the role you can play in positively impacting the lives of nation’s children. Thank you for your time and someone from Prevent Child Abuse America will follow-up with you next Friday, September 2, if I have not connected with you by then.


James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO

Prevent Child Abuse America

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