Child harnesses can be a useful technology for fidgety toddlers in crowded places and children with special needs, but their use and misuse has become a hot parenting topic, popping up all over mommy blogs. While some parents swear by them, others believe leashes are bad parenting and that moms and dads should simply be more attentive.
A shocking video of a mother dragging her leashed toddler on the floor through a store in Georgia, created an uproar when it was posted on the internet.
We decided to see how people would react if a child harness was being misused right in front of them.
ABC News' "What Would You Do" used slightly older child actors who could obey prompts more easily; 7-year-old Joli played a 5-year-old, Rebecca, 9, played a 7-year-old and Lauren, 7, played a 5-year-old in our social experiment.
Our mother seemed to be at the end of her rope. She tied her children to a post as one might a dog, and yelled at them to "sit" and "heel."
Watch the scenario unfold on "What Would You Do?" Friday at 9/8c
Stares, but No One Intervened
Many people strolled by, hearing our mom's every word. Some people did a double take, looking back at the children with shocked faces, but then continued walking.
One man even took a cell phone video and waved to Joli as she sat on the ground, tied to a parking meter, but did not speak up. When "What Would You Do?" host John Quinones approached the man and asked him why he did not confront the girl he said: "It's not my place, it's not my business."
When one woman walked by, our mother commented that her kids were "so unruly." The woman responded to our actress. "I've never seen anybody tie up children like dogs" before she continued on her way.
Some parents even told our actress that they've been there before. One young woman told us she was diagnosed with a behavioral disorder and briefly wore a harness. "I mean, I can't say that I was on the leash for a long period of my life at all, but it was definitely something that was tested out on me. I think I turned out OK," Elana Jaroff said.
911 Call: 'It's Disturbing'
But others instinctively felt the mom's parenting was wrong and called 911. Jonathan Warner was passing by and immediately called 911.
"It's disturbing to me," he said.
The police were in on our "What Would You Do" experiment and we had two off duty officers standing by.
We decided to try our experiment with just one child, who by herself seemed more vulnerable. As our controlling mom and daughter walked around no one intervened.
But when the mom left her daughter alone outside a store, tied to a parking meter, Victoria Beckerman had enough.
She stormed across the street and yelled: "It's just not OK to tie a child. No, I'm actually going to go in and talk to her and I'm gonna call the police."
Beckerman went inside the store and confronted our mom, who said her daughter was fine.
"If she doesn't want to go in I have to leave her outside," our actor explained.
But Beckerman disagreed. "Tying her is really disturbing, she's not an animal," she said.
Our actress told her it was a safety leash, not a dog leash. Beckerman said "it's inappropriate" and headed back across the street to call the police.
Beckerman, a social worker and a mom, told Quinones that she took things into her own hands because she considered what she saw to be child abuse.
"You don't tie up a child ... it's very inappropriate," she said.
Almost 200 people witnessed our child actors on leashes or tied to the pole.