Childhood is filled with social challenges that can pop up at almost every age, but middle school can be one of the most distressing times for many kids. Bullying runs rampant among pre-teens. But its prevalence doesn't make it any less heartbreaking for targets -- or their parents. For proof, look no further than a viral video taken by Knoxville, Tennessee mom Kimberly Jones of her son Keaton and posted to Facebook on Friday, December 8. In the clip, the middle schooler details how he was treated by his classmates at lunch.
“They make fun of my nose. They call me ugly. They say I have no friends,” Keaton tells his mom in the clip as he holds back tears. He shared that his bullies "put milk on me and put ham down my clothes, throw bread on me.”
He asks his mom, “Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What’s the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them? It’s not okay. ... I don’t like that they do it to me. And I, for sure, don’t like that they do it to other people, cause it’s not okay! People that are different don’t need to be criticized about it. It’s not their fault.”
Although it appears the video has since been removed for public viewing by Jones, the mom shared the following alongside the original clip, according to People: "Alongside the emotional video, Keaton’s mother, Kimberly Jones, wrote, “For the record, Keaton asked to do this AFTER he had he me pick him up AGAIN because he was afraid to go to lunch. My kids are by no stretch perfect, & 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 they’re 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.”
The video racked up a crazy amount of views (more than 15.7 million) in a short period of time, garnering attention from a bevy of celebrities from Tennessee Titans player Delanie Walker who invited Keaton to a game later this month, Snoop Dogg who reposted the video on his Instagram account, as well as Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Patricia Arquette, Chris Evans who invited Keaton to the Avengers premiere, and Hailee Steinfeld who invited Keaton to be her date to the Pitch Perfect 3 premiere. There's even a hashtag being used alongside responses to the little boy's plea: #standwithkeaton, and his sister, Lakyn, has been fielding tweets and DMs for her now internet-famous brother.
The massive, supportive response to Keaton's clip is wild and wonderful. Fingers crossed all of these positive messages of hope offer comfort not only to Keaton, but all young, brave targets of bullying.