Bullied Kids Don't Need Attention-Starved Parents and Theatrical Coddling. They Need Confidence and Courage.
Before today, I had never heard the name Keaton Jones and neither had you. His story went viral over the weekend and now he’s “internet famous” as the cool people say. Sadly, he didn’t ask to be famous. You see, Keaton is a middle schooler who was recently bullied by a group of his peers at the lunch table because he has a scar on his forehead left over from a tumor removal. Of course, this sort of bullying happens every day at thousands of schools across the country, so I’m sure that you’re probably wondering why on earth it's even being brought up. Why is Keaton's tale of woe making national news? How is his story different than all the others? Why was Keaton’s name the number one trending topic on Facebook and Twitter for over 24 hours? Why is Chris Evans offering him a free pass to the premiere of the new “Avengers” movie? Why are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Snoop Dogg and Mark Hamill tweeting and posting about this kid? Why is Sean Hannity threatening to make a personal visit to the school to deal with the administration himself?
Well, the answer to all of these questions is relatively simple, really. Keaton’s mother, Kimberly, picked him up from school one day. When Keaton climbed into the car and began to tell his mom the tragic tale of what occurred at lunchtime, she did what any good millennial or modern-era parent would do: She whipped out her smartphone and started filming her son’s tearful monologue (or so we’ve been told.) According to Kimberly Jones, her son actually asked her to do the recording, which you can view by clicking here.
In a Facebook post, she later clarified:
For the record, Keaton asked to do this AFTER he had me pick him up AGAIN because he was afraid to go to lunch. My kids are by no stretch perfect, & at home, he’s as all boy as they come, but by all accounts he’s good at school. Talk to your kids. I’ve even had friends of mine tell me they’re kids were only nice to him to get him to mess with people. We all know how it feels to want to belong, but only a select few know how it really feels not to belong anywhere.”
After filming her sobbing son for almost a minute and a half, Kimberly finishes the video and — in keeping with millennial standards — uploaded it to social media, where it took the Internet by storm. She also opened up her personal PayPal account to receive donations from anyone who might feel sorry enough for Keaton to lavish him with loads of cash. A separate GoFundMe account has already raked in over $50,000. And, from what I’ve read, a scholarship is also being discussed. It’s worth mentioning that — after receiving lots of blowback — Kimberly eventually deleted her Facebook account. However, she kept her PayPal account active.
Now, before we go any further, I want to be perfectly clear: Keaton’s situation is absolutely terrible and my heart goes out to him. I’ve watched the video multiple times. I’ve shown it to my parents. I don’t have kids myself, but I know parents whose children have been bullied (both physically and emotionally.) In fact, as I watched Keaton cry, I was overcome with memories of the boys in my high school who used to make fun of me because I was shy and uncomfortable about changing clothes around other guys in the locker room before and after P.E. class. Even after all these years, I can still hear their gruff voices: “What’s your problem, Givens? Look, guys, Givens doesn’t wanna take his pants off! Take ‘em off Givens! C’mon, man, strip ‘em off!” They would shout these ridiculous taunts at me as I cowered in the corner waiting for them to go away so that I could disrobe in privacy. One kid in particular had an annoying habit of yanking on the right leg of my khakis until I either gave in or until they tired of messing with me.
You have to realize — I was homeschooled throughout my elementary and middle school years, so being thrust into a world where jocks and nerds changed clothes in locker rooms together wasn’t exactly normal to me, nor was it normal to ridicule someone for not wanting to get half naked in a room full of people who he didn’t know. So, I empathize with kids who are mocked, teased, laughed at, insulted and attacked.
That being said, Kimberly isn’t doing her son any favors by broadcasting this video or by subsequently allowing his story to become a national sympathy campaign. That’s because kids like Keaton don’t need attention and coddling. They don’t need safe spaces. They don’t need to be repeatedly told that “everything will be alright.” They don’t need celebrities, actors, rappers, NASCAR drivers, superheroes and entertainers coming to their rescue whenever their feelings are hurt or even when they wind up in physical altercations. That’s not how real life will work for Keaton when he’s 16 and trying to get his first job. That’s not how it will work when he asks a girl to accompany him to prom and she rejects the invitation. Captain America won’t always be there to save the day or make him feel better.
What kids like Keaton do need is confidence. They need courage. They need to be told that sometimes life is tough and — when it is — you will have to be tougher. You will have to endure. You will have to be strong. You will have to persevere. You may even have to defend yourself physically, verbally, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. That’s the message we should be sending to this generation. Childhood bullying won’t ever be “fixed” or “solved” by any manmade institution. It’s as much a part of human nature as sin and wickedness. Parents have a moral obligation and a responsibility to prepare their kids to handle the challenges of the real world — challenges which will eventually extend far beyond some kid making fun of a surgery scar on their forehead or pushing them into a locker.
My ultimate prayer is that Kimberly will embrace this mindset and that Keaton will go on to have as normal and happy of a life as possible. The last thing a bullied child needs is a parent who exploits them for Internet fame and uses the situation to obtain attention, free cash and movie passes for life. (Though she naturally denies having such motives.) Even if her motives and intentions were pure, however, the results were still disastrous and the whole thing was poorly planned and carried out.
And little Keaton was simply caught in the middle of it all. Tragic.