Mother: What did they do to you?
Keaton: Poured milk on me and put ham down my clothes.
Mother: How does that make you feel?
Keaton: I don’t like that they do it to me, and I don’t like that they do it to other people because its not okay.
Before we start, we want you to take a moment to read over those lines. A conversation between a mother and child, in the privacy of their car, as the boy tells his heartbreaking and painful daily existence at school. It is a conversation not unlike many occurring all over the world, as children face daily torment at the hands of bullies. The reasons for these attacks vary, but it seems no one is immune to being a target, and for those who are different, who struggle to fit in, they unfortunately seem to fall pray to these hateful attacks more than others.
The boy in this exchange is Keaton Jones. A middle school student in Tennessee, he has a simple question I am sure we have all wondered at some point in our lives.
“Just out of curiosity, why do they bully?”
His mother, Kimberley, posted the tearful video on her Facebook this past Friday, December 8, and since then it has gone viral across multiple platforms, gaining attention not only from others who have faced similar circumstances, but from celebrity supports as well.
Kimberley took the video after being called to the school to pick up her crying and upset son, as he was too upset and scared to go to lunch. He was tormented, teased for the scars on his head from tumor operations, and made to feel alone.
Celebs such as Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, and Hailee Steinfeld (who invited Keaton to be her date to the Pitch Perfect 3 premiere) have rallied behind the courageous young man, shouting their support.
“Stay strong, Keaton. Don’t let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better. While those punks at your school are deciding what kind of people they want to be in this world, how would you and your mom like to come to the Avengers premiere in LA next year?” – Chris Evans
“You got a pal in the Hulk,” – Mark Ruffalo
Other supports include Snoop Dog, Chase Crawford, Kevin Jonas and more.
For a mother, watching your child struggle through the trials and tribulations of youth is difficult at any time. But for Kimberley, watching her son fight against unjust hate and ridicule at the hands of his peers is a new level of pain.
“My kids are by no stretch perfect, and 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 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.” – Kimberley Jones
It was Keaton who asked his mother to tape him, for his honest and heartfelt cry to be heard in a safe and controlled environment. And the impact he has made across the world is unlike any other before him. Despite his obvious struggle, he is eloquent, he is honest, and poses questions that many kids wonder all the time. Hell, even as adults, are we truly free from bullying? The torture comes in many forms, from silent treatment and separating some from a group, to direct conflict, assault and name calling. No matter the age, it is an unfortunate and upsetting world we live in that no one is immune from the tactics of those who gain power by taking it from others in any manner they can.
Bullying comes in many forms, direct (calling names, direct confrontation), indirect (spreading rumors without facing the individual), assault, damaging property and more. And, living in this digital age, it is no longer an event that occurs within the schools or the playground. The accessibility of kids to each other through social media, mobile phones and the like serve only to give bullies even more platforms to reach their targets.
In 2014, the Centre for Disease Control, along with the Department of Education in the United States conducted the first uniform definition and study on bullying. It was found that 1 in 4 students admit to being bullied in some form, with the most common age being middle school. Young people who are seen as different from their peers tend to be more obvious targets, a trend that hasn’t changed over the years. It is also acknowledged that bullying is no longer considered solely the interaction between the bully and their victim, but also contributors of bystanders and groups who support or ignore the bullying they witness.
Here are a few stats:
- 28% of students grade 6-12 admit to being bullied
- 30% of young people admit to bullying others
- 70% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools
- 70% of school staff have witnessed bullying at their schools
- 9% of students grade 6-12 admit to being cyberbullied
These numbers are shocking and alarming, and are thought to only rise. Despite many programs implemented to help with the bullying crisis, they have had little to no effect on the instance of bullying within schools. It seems that despite the endless opportunities and avenues of entertainment and option for young people in this day and age, there is still a fundamental need to put others down to pull themselves up.
There have been more and more films on these subjects in recent years, attempts to shed light on the effects of bullying in ways young people can connect with. The mockumentary A Girl Like Her (2015) follows the story of Jessica Burns and her battle against former friend turned enemy Avery. Jessica is tormented daily, physically, verbally, in person, online, via text by Avery, to the point where she attempts to take her own life. The story is told through hidden camera clips and memories of Jessica and her friend Brian, who convinced Jessica to wear the camera to show exactly what was happening. It is a gripping, real, raw and honest portrayal of what many students experience, and a film many more should watch.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone who has not experienced some form of bullying in their lives. In middle school, I was tormented daily by several students, lasting until high school. More than four years, I hated the thought of going to school, never knowing what they would do to me, what they would say, and feeling everything they told me was true. I was ugly, stupid, and had no friends. I was already reclusive with limited self esteem, and my quiet nature seemed to urge them on. I didn’t fight back, and I was a target. Even now, thirty years later, I can remember many of those instances clearly.
It did stop, but only once we moved to a bigger school, with more people to separate us. I did move on, but the scars are still there. It did get better, but only because I started to learn that the problem wasn’t me, it was them, and their own lacking which they felt necessary to take out on me. Those were all lessons that took years to learn, and as much as some people would like to say ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘we’ve all been through it’, that isn’t good enough. Yes, kids will be kids, but what kind of kids do we want to put forward in this world? The kind who treat others as inferior, who hurt them and make them feel unworthy, or kids who reach out, help others up when pushed down, and stand up for what is right over what is easy? No longer should parents make excuses for behavior that is unacceptable in every way, under the label of ‘kid’. We are responsible for molding the youth of today into the adults of tomorrow, so you need to think: what kind of future do you want them to create?
Young people need to understand that words do hurt. They have consequences like any other action, and while they may not be able to see the scars they inflict, they are truly there. And, above all else, Keaton Jones put it best:
“What’s the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to ’em? It’s not okay. It’s not okay! People that are different don’t need to be criticized about it. It’s not their fault.” – Keaton Jones
We are with you, Keaton. We have been there, we have survived, and so will you. You are stronger than many, braver than most, and are the kind of person we need in this world. Don’t let them change you, because you are perfect as you are.
- The Fangirlish Team
Watch the video HERE
Statistics obtained from www.stopbullying.gov