Claim excessive tickling is child abuse divides parents

A claim that excessive tickling is a form of child abuse has divided parents.

One mum has shared a post online, pleading with others to stop tickling their children if they say no. And not everyone's laughing.

Most would see it as a harmless way to play with your kids. But despite the giggling and the squirming, could tickling ever do more harm than good?

"Your child is laughing and then you believe that that's a kind of invitation to play, but remembering laugh is involuntary," says child psychologist Dr Emma Woodward.

A debate between two mums has gone viral on Facebook. One parent said: "Stop if your child asks you to stop… it's about consent… you are teaching them their body, their rules."

The other was shocked by the mother's stance, arguing: "So it'd be child abuse to do it to my kids? They will literally tell you to stop, then immediately ask to be tickled more."

"If you're not cued in with your child's other signals that you could just go too far and make them feel like they're out of control with what's happening," Dr Woodward says.

People Newshub spoke to on Sunday were unsure about where the boundaries lie.

"Even when you stop tickling them they're having a giggle, they're not crying," one person said.

"It's a far stretch to take that to child abuse," another said.

Others disagreed.

"Are children allowed to have autonomy over how they're treated? I would say yes. Listen to them," a third argued.

And the experts agree - communication really is the key.

"Don't let this get into your head and stop you being affectionate to your children and playing with them," Dr Woodward says.

"We just need to make sure we just pause and breath to make sure we're still on the same page together."

That way there's genuine fun behind the infectious laughter.