Rosie O'Donnell's Missing Daughter in the Age of Social Media

Rosie O'Donnell

Last week Rosie O’Donnell experienced every parent’s nightmare. Her daughter went missing and despite every effort to contact the 17 year old, she couldn’t reach her or bring her home. After days of vague-tweeting about the disappearance, the former talk show host put out a public message and involved law enforcement in her search to bring her daughter home. There are countless families with missing children around the country who would do anything to have Rosie’s platform — over 840,000 Twitter followers and the names and numbers of local TV producers in the area at her disposal. She was fortunate to have the reach she did, and it paid off: her daughter Chelsea was in police custody just six hours later.

In the course of her search, Rosie released personal details about her daughter, in all likelihood to inform the public of just how important it was to locate Chelsea as soon as possible. She tweeted about her daughter’s mental health issues and that she had stopped taking her medication. Rosie has since deleted these tweets, but the Internet is forever, and major news outlets like CNN reported on the revelations. Given the fact that Chelsea wasn’t in communication with her family, it’s clear that at the time of the tweets, the teenager, whose mental health was being discussed in public, did not give consent for her medical history to be revealed to the world by her mother or anyone else. Since Chelsea’s safe return, Rosie has continued tweeting about the situation. She has made public that the man her daughter was with is a heroin dealer and overall bad guy. She tweeted this:


And retweeted an article about the situation to her followers:


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While most celebrities would refuse to give any stories about themselves or their children any oxygen, Rosie is doing even more: she’s disseminating the stories and fueling them with information on Twitter. Rosie’s tweets since the disappearance are reminiscent of a teenager’s propensity to overshare feelings on social media with posts like this:

As with all children, Chelsea didn’t choose her family; it was by fate that it was chosen for her. Chelsea didn’t choose to be the daughter of an activist or a celebrity, nor did she sign up for her personal business to be fodder for news stories or blogs like this one when she was adopted by Rosie. By all accounts, Rosie has been a devoted mother and when she decided to step down from hosting “The View,” she cited a need and desire to be close to her family.

Prioritizing family over career is an admirable step that few in Hollywood take and Rosie should be commended for putting her family first. What makes me uneasy about the situation, however, is the public way that her daughter’s very personal problems have been made into the public’s business.

Despite the fact that she never asked for it, I’m going to give Rosie some parenting advice. Given how public she has been with her daughter’s struggles, I now know way more than I should about the situation in her home. Which fuels the following:

Get. Off. Twitter.

Stop tweeting about your daughter, about her struggles, about the entire situation. If your daughter has anything she wants to be made public about her mental health struggles, about the man she met, about any part of this situation, let her do the talking when she’s old enough to understand how vicious the 24-hour news cycle can be, when she understands how permanent the Internet is. It’s admirable that you were brave enough to come forward and ask for the public’s help in locating Chelsea. But we, the public, do not need to know anything more about your lives. We aren’t entitled to information because you asked for our help, but your daughter is entitled to a large degree of privacy. Resolve any remaining issues you might have in private with the help of qualified experts.

Image via APImages