Is it discipline or is it bullying?
That’s the question that rages on forums and comments sections, every time a new case of “public parenting” comes to light.
In 2012 a father posted a YouTube video in which he shoots his daughter’s laptop, punishment for the Facebook hateful rant she posted about him.
In 2013, an 11-year old girl was made to stand on a busy street corner holding a sign after her mother caught her twerking at a school dance.
Earlier this month a Denver mom took to Facebook when her 13 year old daughter posted sexually explicit pictures on social media. She posted a video in which she is berating her crying daughter.
But this is the first time such a story has had such a hopeless end.
Izabel Laxamana took her life on May 29th. Her father had just punished her for disobeying him, cutting off her hair and uploading a YouTube video of the aftermath. In it, he is addressed the young girl, as his camera focus moves from her to the pile of long black hair on the floor.
“The consequences of getting messed up, man, you lost all that beautiful hair. Was it worth it?”
“How many times did I warn you?”
A blog called Tacoma Stories claimed that the shaming led directly to Izabel’s suicide:
We pretend suicide attempts don’t happen. Or we pretend that no outside factors contributed to a person’s choice to try to end their life. We need to stop that. We need to pay attention. We need to stop acting like there’s nothing we can do. Public shaming is a form of abuse. There are those who will say that it teaches a lesson. So does punching someone in the face. That doesn’t make it okay to do to your children.
Most of twitter has taken a similar position.
Shaming a child is considered by some as parent's prerogative,a parenting 'style'.It is not-it is emotional abuse http://t.co/OLcqNL964r— Sophie Christophy (@schristophy) June 4, 2015
Some argued that the cutting of Izabel's hair was not merely a punishment, but a violation of her sense of self.
This planet isn't funny anymore. You ripped your daughter's identity away and make her share her pain. http://t.co/Nh1RZL0YZs— just sophie (@sophizoey) June 4, 2015
Others preempted a common defense of parenting that is made during discussions about such incidents: that they were punished by their parents, too, but weren't traumatized.
Stop shaming your kids on the internet. Stop broadcasting your lazy parenting. And no, you didn't "turn out fine"... http://t.co/lR46vJLNgG— Alexander Hardy (@chrisalexander_) June 4, 2015
And there were calls for formal action to be taken against the father.
Any updates on #IzabelLaxamana 's father? Has he been incarcerated for this cruel crime?— Nabilah Asarow (@NabilahAsarow) June 4, 2015
Jezebel’s Anna Merlan takes a measured stance, noting that
“It’s also important to note that determining cause and effect when it comes to suicide isn’t easy. We have little information about what else was going on in Laxamana’s life [that could have contributed to the suicide]”
But even if the public shaming was the primary or even singular cause of Izabel's suicide, perhaps the uproar against her father is not serving the wider issue of youth wellbeing. We need to have a serious conversation about the impact of public punishment, about the delicate psyche of growing kids, and about resources that will help parents and children communicate better, without resorting to extreme measures. Even well-meaning, loving parents make mistakes that hurt their children, and there is no reason this should be happening.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you’re in crisis or feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat online with someone from NSPL at any time, day or night.
Read more: How Redditors Stopped A Suicide