Making the bus monitor cry is going to haunt those kids for a long time
The latest viral story sweeping the web accompanies a video showing school kids cruelly taunting their elderly bus monitor to the point she cries. It’s shot by one of the kids and features the heartless and spiteful voices of four or five others who, emboldened by being together in a pack while the old lady is clearly alone, verbally abuse and physically prod her until she is in tears. It is almost unbearable to watch; certainly you don’t need to watch more than 4 or 5 minutes of it.
The reaction to this video has been both heartening (some $400,000 has been raised to send this lady on holiday or even pay for her early retirement in a matter of a few days) and shocking (how so many of the young people express their disgust in more violent terms than the original act – see the YouTube comments). Some are bizarre and ironic – like this one where a level-headed sounding young man condemns the bullies while casually blowing people away in his on-line sniper game.
If you follow the story through, you’ll see that disgusted classmates have posted the names and phone numbers of the offending bullies online. You can find reactions from the parents, from school officials and – reassuringly – from Greece, NY bus monitor Mrs. Karen Klein herself who was clearly hurt by the experience. My son signed a petition to demand that she doesn’t have to pay tax on her unexpected financial windfall and in doing so, brought it to my attention. I felt moved to send her a Facebook message just saying I felt for her and hoped she could put it behind her. With luck, she will enjoy her money and the kids responsible will learn a hard, fast lesson.
All of which leaves me marvelling at the sheer speed at which both the kids’ and Mrs. Klein’s lives changed; not just because of an act of bullying (because that goes on all the time, all over the world without anyone seeing it) but because it was filmed on a phone for fun, found its way to the internet and then – from the point of view of the gang of bullies – went spectacularly wrong, spectacularly quickly.
The problem for these kids is that this foolish and cruel behaviour towards their bus monitor (someone who’s job it is to protect them!) is going to haunt them for as long as they live and have a significant impact on their future opportunities. However, a more immediate problem for them may be that there are people out there angry enough to wanted to shorten how long they actually do live. Enraging hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people who know your name, your phone number, your school and can easily find you is NOT a smart move in terms of your personal safety alone. In terms of their online reputations, this issue has become international news and featured on so many sites that these kids have no chance of ousting the bad news stories attached to their names and little or no chance of even balancing that information with positive stories (assuming they survive this notoriety and go on to do anything good with their lives).
The morale of this tale isn’t just that bad deeds are always rewarded by bad karma, it’s how quickly one cruel and thoughtless act can damage your reputation beyond any hope of repair and in a way that will haunt you for as long as Google does what Google does.