There is outrage on the internet which I’m sure comes as no surprise.
A thirteen year old Tacoma girl ended her life by jumping off of a bridge. Many are blaming the girl’s father for her suicide due to a 15 second video posted on YouTube in which she is shown blankly staring at into the camera with her newly cropped hair. The camera pans to a pile of long dark locks laying on the floor of what looks to be a garage.
The reasons for the hair cut aren’t clear and there are few words said on the video but apparently the girl, Izabel, did something her father found unacceptable and this was the consequence he chose as punishment.
There are reports that Izabel’s father is not the person who uploaded the video to the internet, that it was a family friend. Some of the people chiming in with their opinions didn’t even know Izabel. There will always be people looking for their fifteen seconds and, as a side note, shame on them for choosing a thirteen year old girl’s suicide to find it.
Perhaps it isn’t my place and the story is still developing but I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that there may have been other issues that contributed to Izabel’s suicide. Perhaps this was just the proverbial straw. Only time will tell.
Regardless of who uploaded the video, this is an episode among many of a new found way of punishing our children – public shaming. We’ve all seen the cute little kids in the ‘get along shirt’ and it gave us all a good laugh and we mentally high five the mom because it’s just too damn cute.
But we also see older kids and teens on the street corners or in front of a school with posters and sandwich boards publicly shouting out their infractions, their faces grim and who knows what thoughts reeling through their heads.
At what point does this public shaming become harmful, maybe bordering on abusive? When does this punishment actually fit the crime? What unseen damage is being done?
As a parent, I would never choose to publicly humiliate my child. I believe in consequences but I’m not going to condone adding public, and sometimes possibly viral, humiliation to the tween and teenage psyche that is perhaps already riddled with angst and confusion. That seems to me like throwing fuel on a fire.
When one of my children was younger, they walked out of a store with a pack of gum in their pocket. They have been taught that stealing is wrong and when we do something that isn’t right, there are consequences. I turned the car around, brought my child back to the store, and I waited at the door while they went to the counter and returned the pack of gum to the cashier with an apology. Was that embarrassing? Yes. Did they learn a lesson? Yes. Was it followed up with a good talking to about consequences for their actions? Yes. Was it splattered all over the internet in pictures or video? No.
I understand that the things some kids are doing are more serious than a stolen pack of gum but my point is this:
There is a better way to handle things than putting their face in front of a crowd and risking them feeling that the world sees them as ‘bad’, so why bother to try and be good. Kids will make mistakes, and again I reiterate that there should be consequences, but is adding insult to injury the answer? Or does it only cause more harm?
It is our job to love and protect our children. It is also our job to teach them. Can we not teach them without the world being witness and increasing the feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, or failure they may already be feeling?
I just have to ask…
How many times does this method actually work?
How many times does it backfire?
Perhaps, most importantly….is it worth the risk?
Photo credit: greyerbaby on Morguefile