I don’t really have an opinion on Jimmy Kimmel. People seem to like him. Apparently he’s funny. He makes people laugh. He’s a host, a comedian, a writer, and a producer. He has his own late night talk show that’s been on the air for over fifteen years. So, I mean, well done Jimmy Kimmel.
He also does something this time every year (Google tells me that this is year nine) that makes my heart hurt. He has parents, as a “prank”, tell their kids that they ate all their Halloween candy. The parents record the exchange, send in the video, and the internet has a collective laugh over these betrayed and crying children.
Who decided it was funny to laugh at kids’ pain? I’ll get back to that.
Jokes should never hurt. Let’s just start there. Jokes should make both parties laugh. If one party is laughing and the other one is crying, that’s not a joke. That’s bullying. Plain and simple. If a parents pulls a “prank” on their child with the intent of making them sad, it’s bullying. If a parent records a child – understandably – crying, and then shares it with the internet, it’s bullying. If we, as a collective society, laugh at children who are in distress, it’s bullying. We seem to recognize bullying when it’s done in the schoolyard, but turn a blind eye when it’s done by parents.
The very definition of bullying is “seeking to harm, intimidate, or coerce.” Is that not exactly what parents are doing when they use their power over their children to make them feel bad? And then splash it about the internet as though it’s entertainment?
Kids are human beings, with human feelings. Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of that. Doing something to purposely hurt those feelings is mean. Children are not our puppets. They’re not here for our entertainment. They are people, who, like all people, are deserving of kindness and respect.
Pretending to eat their candy is akin to me parking my husbands car around the corner, telling him it was stolen from the driveway, and then laughing (And filming! Can’t forget the filming!) at his reaction.
But it’s just candy, you may argue. The car comparison is unfair. But what’s “just” candy to an adult may very well be extremely important to the child. The fact that it’s “just” candy doesn’t make their sadness or their tears any less real. It doesn’t make what you’ve done any less cruel. Delighting in someone else’s misery is NEVER funny, no matter how insignificant you think it to be. Candy, cars, it doesn’t matter. Purposely hurting someone so we can laugh at them is one of the lowest things we can do. Jokes shouldn’t hurt.
We have to start doing better. We seem to realize that there is a bullying problem in schools today (which is a start!), but no one wants to have the uncomfortable conversation. No one wants to admit that maybe, just maybe, kids bully because they were first bullied at home. Because they learned that it was all a game to cause someone else pain. Because they learned that it was funny to make someone else cry. Because they learned that “jokes” could be at someone else’s expense.
Our society, and our kids, deserve better. And that is never, ever going to come to fruition if we don’t take a hard honest look at how we’re treating our own children, the youngest and most vulnerable members of our own families.
Be nice to children. Please.