A Coweta County mother lost custody of her two youngest teenagers Monday, after a YouTube video showed her blowing up the teens’ beds.
But the mother of five adopted children said she’s taken to social media to send a message and ask for help.
Deborah Smith, known on YouTube as “Southern Momma,” also shot her son’s cellphone, denouncing social media in 2015. Her son, Ethan, was 15 at the time and an Eagle Scout who had started hanging out with the wrong crowd and acting badly.
So had McKenzie, now 17, and Robbie, now 16.
The Smith family’s five adopted children range in age from 16 to 29. Two are biological brothers and two are half-brother and sister, the mother said.
Almost exactly one year ago, after Smith said she caved in to the kids’ pressure and bought them cellphones, the three youngest children started acting out and behaving badly.
Smith said she meant to limit their phone use to times when chores and homework assignments were completed.
Instead, the teenagers’ grades slipped and the family’s data usage rates went “through the roof,” Smith said.
When the kids failed to heed to conventional punishments, Smith formally denounced the effects of social media on her family via a 12-gauge shotgun, a sledgehammer and a YouTube video.
Smith set the cellphone on a tree stump, loaded a rifle and shot Ethan’s phone twice.
“My children’s lives are more important to me than any electronic [device] on this earth,” Smith said.
She finished the job with a sledgehammer.
“I’m done,” she said as the clip ends.
McKenzie, who is seen in the video with arms crossed over her T-shirt, took the lesson to heart and immediately straightened up, changing her group of friends and behavior.
“She realized mom’s serious and is now on track to graduate in May and head to college,” Smith said.
But Ethan, seen in the video holding up two middle fingers, only improved his behavior briefly. He and Robbie started hanging out at all hours of the night, and even took to selling drugs by summer.
After getting in trouble with the law earlier this year, both boys were put on probation, Smith said.
On April 5, Smith blew up the boys’ beds and posted the video to YouTube.
“I made another video because my boys were out of control,” Smith said. “They’re stealing from us, they’re buying drugs and hanging out with “drug-thug buddies.”
So she returned to social media to teach the teenagers they couldn’t use drugs and come home to lie in the bed.
“Today, we’re going to take that option of where to sleep away,” Smith said in the video, shotgun in hand. “I’ve had enough.”
Someone called the Coweta County Department of Children and Family Services and a social worker told Smith she had to sign a “safety plan” agreeing not to use weapons in front of the children.
She refused to let the agency deny her First and Second Amendment rights, she said, and DFACS took her sons on Monday.
The DFACS social worker did not return a phone call Friday.
Smith said she hopes the boys get into a program that will help them through their drug addictions before it’s too late.
“They’re at the cusp of being 17 years old, where it goes from being juvenile offenses to adult offenses,” she said. “I just don’t know where it’s gonna end. I don’t want them to die.”