Should YouTube Mistakes Haunt You Forever?

Remember the video of Karen Klein, the bus lady from New York harassed by 7th grade students last week? After receiving a flood of donations for an all-expenses-paid vacation somewhere, her daughter has called for the harassment against the boys who bullied Klein to stop.

Although Klein told CNN that some of the boys were “sorry they got caught” for the torment they caused on the school bus, her family stresses that it is not justification for the community to do their own bullying as a way of correcting that incident. I couldn’t agree more.

Watching that video last week made me cringe not only because an innocent woman doing her job was getting threats and taunts thrown in her direction, but because of the backlash I knew these boys were going to experience. Since those kids were in 7th grade, I don’t think that they fully understood the consequences of what they did or how far it would go on YouTube.

True to the Internet’s opaque, anonymous character, the kids and their families got a heap of death threats and unwelcome visits to their homes after their addresses were posted on the Web. One user named “TheDUPinator” on YouTube said, “If this was my nan and I found out who said these things to her, i’d be going down for murder right now.”

It has become increasingly common for YouTube to act as a medium for calling people out for big mistakes captured and displayed through the wonderful world of online video. YouTube should remain as a place where transparency is king, and not where little, stupid mistakes make 7th graders out to be international pariahs.

Believe me–as a person who has experienced bullying, I’d like those kids who tormented Klein to be disciplined by their principal. However, I think the kids who have been humiliated by their terrible actions by the YouTube community should be left alone by the trolls and random threatening strangers, as the harsh comments were good enough punishment. Having your digressions broadcast on YouTube is one of the most humiliating punishments you can inflict on somebody–not only because it’s out there for everyone to see, but also because it makes them think twice about what they did.

While we should condemn what those boys did to Klein that horrific day, this incident, no matter how despicable and depressing, should not be representative of what they can contribute to society in the future. People make mistakes all the time; I don’t believe that kicking them when they’re down is the solution to bullying because it’s only encouraging more of the same.

Let the kids learn from their mistakes rather than haunting them forever with it.