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Public Shaming Is More Brutal Than We Think

Izabel Laxamana, a 13-year-old girl in Tacoma, Wash., died after she jumped off a highway overpass on Friday, May 29. Days earlier, the girl's father had reportedly punished her by cutting off her hair and uploading a video of it to YouTube. Now there's a debate over whether her father's public shaming caused her death.

Were this father's actions a contributing factor in his daughter taking her own life? Some say definitely yes, others say the nature of suicide is too complex to know for sure.

I know one thing for certain: public shaming videos like this are an extreme form of punishment and do more harm than good.

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Some of us are familiar with the old school "not in my house" way of raising children, because that's how our parents disciplined us. Now this authoritative form of discipline has intersected the Internet age, and some parents think online ridicule is one way to teach a child a lesson.

But this is misguided.

Parents who didn't grow up saturated with the internet and social media don't understand the effects of uploading a public shaming video. They say you should consider everything you do online as written in ink. Why? Take the video of Laxamana as an example. The video in question was removed, but copies already exist elsewhere on the internet.

The effects of humiliating your child online go beyond the lesson you're trying to impart. It can lead to your child being mocked by his or her peers. The video can spread beyond what you imagined, and your child might become an Internet joke passed from stranger to stranger. The potential for long-lasting effects make an online public shaming different from a mere public shaming. If you decide to discipline your child in public—assuming no one records it—the punishment lasts only as long as the event. Online public shaming endures and can haunt your child long after the lesson has been learned.

There's more to say about the case of Izabel Laxamana.

Unlike other online shaming videos, she wasn't merely forced to hold a sign admitting her wrongdoings, as in other disciplinary videos parents have posted. In Isabel's case, her father chopped off her long hair, which is seen strewn on the floor beneath her. The act itself is brutal, even if weren't being filmed.

Historically, the act of cutting another person's hair off has been reserved for imposing the worst shame. Thus, Izabel contended not only with the effects of other people seeing her father shame her online but having to wear the shame on her everywhere she went. That in itself is an extreme punishment, only made worse by being shared online for all to see.

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Some parents are pushing back. Recently, one dad's video went viral for standing up against social media shamings. Rather than watch the video that hurt this young girl, let's watch this man being a great parent:

Ultimately, parents must remember that discipling a child is not about our desire to impose a punishment, but about helping our child learn something. If a parent's punishment is so severe that it causes irreparable damage, then that parent has failed. You can teach a lesson without destroying your child. Izabel deserved better from the people tasked with raising and protecting her.

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