34-year-old Shannon Johnson, a mother who admitted her 13 month-old son drowned in the bathtub while she played on Facebook, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. District Judge Thomas Quammen also ordered Johnson to serve five years of mandatory parole upon her release from jail.
The charges left open the possibility of a lighter sentence, including no prison time, but authorities did not allow for a minimum sentence because they did not want to minimize the seriousness of the situation. Quammen told Johnson she was not a bad person, nor did she intend to harm her child, but she still committed a crime. "You left this little boy in a bathtub so you could entertain yourself on the computer by playing games," the judge said as Johnson cried. "And you left that 13-month-old human being, little Joseph, incredibly, for those reasons."
Johnson called 911 from her home in Fort Lupton, Colorado, last September when she found the toddler face down in the water and not breathing. Joseph was airlifted to a Denver hospital, where he was pronounced dead as medical personnel could not revive him. An autopsy report revealed the child died of an anoxic brain injury, cardiac arrest, and drowning, according to the Associated Press.
Johnson pleaded guilty last month to felony child abuse resulting in the death of her son Joseph. She admitted to police that she put her son in the bathtub on September 20 at 8.30 AM, went into another room to share videos, check status updates, and play a Facebook game called Cafe World. The mother claims to have left her son alone for 10 minutes.
Johnson told police she had been leaving Joseph in the bathtub for weeks because as an "independent baby" he "wanted to be left alone" and she did not want him to be "a mama's boy." Joseph was just diagnosed with a seizure disorder only days before his death and was on medication. Johnson's mother claims she warned her about leaving Joseph alone in the bathtub and that her daughter had promised not to do it anymore.
Unfortunately, while a drowning toddler happens more often than it should, Facebook is becoming just another way for neglectful parents to kill time. I'm not saying Facebook is to blame here (it really isn't), but its growing popularity is certainly making an impact on society. In fact, Urban Dictionary has two entries that are related to this story: Facebook Forgotten (when a parent/guardian forgets to pick up a child from a school due to their Facebook obsession) and Facebook orphan (a child whose parents neglect them in favor of Facebook).