Video Should Spark Dialogue Between Parents And Children

Videos of an incident between several youth, allegedly Jamestown youth, that made the social media rounds late last week upset many in the Jamestown community, with good reason.

The videos, now shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook, show several males engaging with another male, who appears to be crying at various times in the encounter. In one of the videos, the male is told to perform push ups while another counts and uses profanity. In another video, at least one person is shown attempting to take the shirt off the male, who says “stop” several times. No one truly knows what precipitated the videos, so there is likely much more to the situation than meets the eye. That’s not to say that the behavior shown is warranted, but there may be more fault found than the videos show.

That didn’t prevent our outrage from turning into calls for the students to be suspended or expelled from Jamestown High School. It didn’t prevent some from calling for publicly harming a group of teenagers.

Focusing on the punishment from the school district obscures a bigger issue — why are these incidents happening in the first place? The behavior shown in these videos, and others like them that have surfaced in the past, isn’t just teens being teens or a rite of passage that everyone goes through. Some say the only difference between 2019 and 1969 is the proliferation of social media and cell phones. We disagree. As a society, we have a better understanding now of how such traumatic incidents can affect people than we did decades ago. Besides, it’s not as if the teens who ganged up on the smaller teen are the only ones at fault. Onlookers gawked and cheered. Someone pulled out a cell phone and took video. People smiled for the cameras while the harassing behavior continued.

As a community, the best outcome is that the public sharing of these videos sparks a discussion between parents and their children. This is, after all, only tangentally a school district issue. Schools can teach anti-bullying lessons and how to handle contentious situations until teachers are blue in the face and administrators can mete out punishment when applicable, but until anti-bullying lessons and the concept of respect for others are reinforced at home, nothing will change.

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