A new internet hit shows a mother trick her eight-year-old into thinking her had accidentally bought a Ford Mustang while playing with her iPad.
But the boy's emotional response has sparked outrage on social media with many branding her actions as bad parenting.
According to the Daily Mail in London, Paula Papen caught her son Kenyon playing around on eBay on her iPad and she decided to make sure he learned a lesson in respect for grown-up toys.
With her camera rolling, the South Dakota mother convinced Kenyon that he had accidentally spent $50,000 on a Ford Mustang that could not be returned.
A video of the boy sobbing, before realising it was a prank, has become a YouTube hit. Hundreds have laughed along with the Papens but others have lambasted the joke as cruel, the Daily Mail reports.
After seeing that he had searched for the vehicle on eBay, Mrs Papen switched on her camera and asked her son why he had made the lavish purchase.
"I did? Oh can we cancel it? How?" Kenyon said.
The boy bursts into tears when his mum tells him the purchase is final and cannot be reverse, reports the Daily Mail.
"Oh no, I'm horrible," he sobs. "We'll have to sell everything. I'm horrible!"
His mother responds: "You're not horrible baby, you make mistakes."
Kenyon tells his mother that he "didn't mean to buy it".
"I was just looking at it, then when I tried to exit out, it bought it. I didn't mean to! I was like, 'Oh no, oh no' so I turned the iPad off," Kenyon said.
Realising the depth of her son's anguish, Mrs Papen reveals the prank.
The video was uploaded to YouTube on Sunday and has already had more than 35,000 hits.
Comments on YouTube include: "such bad parenting".
Others said: "That was cute and endearing. Sounds like a cool, reasonable kid."
Mrs Papen said her son was "fine".
"Laugh a little. Anyone who knows us knows that we are a silly family who laughs WITH and yes, sometimes, even AT each other!" Mrs Papen told her critics.