The internet is forever. It is the most powerful tool in humanity’s arsenal and it is unrelenting and it is cruel. This is a lesson parents should be teaching their children over, and over, and over again. Which is why it’s so disappointing to see parents not only not understand the internet, but also subject their children to its worst effects.
Keaton, who says he was targeted by five fellow middle-schoolers, said he never complained to a teacher for fear that the bullies would “for sure attack.”
“He became more and more agitated and didn’t want to go back to school,” said Keaton’s mother, Kimberly Jones.
Jones was behind the camera and posted the video to her Facebook.
“I knew that it could be great and I knew that it could be awful, and it has been,” Jones said of the public response to the video.
His mother, Kimberly, seems not to have considered the fact that exposing her son’s vulnerability to the internet might embolden, not cow, his bullies.
Writing for the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro shared his own painful story of bullying before going on to explain, “I wish that Keaton’s mom… had gone to the school, demanded answers from the administration, [and] confronted the parents.” Another friend, Melissa Mackenzie, shared her own autistic son’s experience with bullying in a Twitter thread. Mackenzie told her son, whose teachers refused to take action to stop the bullying, to physically defend himself, a strategy Shapiro also suggested. When Mackenzie’s son got in trouble for physically defending himself, teachers objected, saying they had “zero tolerance for violence.” Mackenzie explained:
By turning themselves into a viral sensation, the Jones’ are also now subjected to the worst that the internet has to offer: a microscope. Soon, pictures of mother and son with Confederate flags were published, and the family was called racist; some commenters implied he might have deserved the bullying. All of this from the same internet mob that one day earlier had leapt to the boy’s defense.
After millions of people watched the video of Keaton’s crying protestations, the family is reportedly trying to cash in on his newfound fame. His mother has started a PayPal account, and there are several reports of unverified GoFundMe pages proliferating, with tens of thousands of dollars raised.
In several months’ time, where will the Jones family find themselves? They will likely have a little extra cash for the holiday season, but for the rest of his life, when you Google Keaton Jones, two narratives will appear: one of a crying victim, and another of a racist who may have had the bullying coming.
The cameras, reporters and celebrities will disappear and Keaton, like internet sensations of the past, will fade from our collective memories. But he will have to go back to school and face bullies who have been publicly humiliated on the national stage. It’s not hard to imagine the bullying becoming exponentially worse.
We are long overdue for a national conversation about how incapable our society has proven itself to be when it comes to raising boys and men in a positive and affirming manner. We have built classrooms that cater to the strengths and personalities of girls, not boys. In a must-watch video for parents of boys, posted at PragerU, the American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Hoff Sommers explains how:
Empathizing with Keaton is laudable; but doing so without questioning how our society may have made his experience worse or more likely to recur is not. By turning Keaton into a celebrity, we’ve incentivized exactly the wrong kind of behavior: crying, not fighting back, or, at the very least, taking the issue to school officials.
Image: Facebook Video Capture