The internet caught the collective sads on Thursday when a mother posted a video of her son hysterically crying because of school bullies. Nine-year-old Quaden Bayles’s peers have apparently decided to make his life a living hell because the boy suffers from dwarfism.
The video itself is devastating — Quaden wails, talks about stabbing himself in the heart and wishes that someone would just kill him so that he no longer has to deal with the pain of bullying. You would have to be utterly heartless not to feel for this little boy.
9 year old wanting to commit suicide due to being bullied. 💔💔💔🥺 pic.twitter.com/DysTrmlaiD
— YouDontNeedToKnowMyName (@S11E11B11A) February 20, 2020
But our sympathy for Quaden’s plight shouldn’t stop us from questioning why this video was posted in the first place. What kind of parent sees their child in their lowest moment and decides to whip out a camera and start recording?
Quaden’s mother claimed she wanted to draw attention to the harmful effects of bullying, as if our televisions aren’t already flooded with anti-bullying PSAs and schools haven’t adopted zero-tolerance policies (which admittedly aren’t usually that effective). Even so, isn’t the correct response to seeing your child hurting to hug them tight and tell them that everything is going to be OK? If the situation is this severe and out of control, you get your child to therapy. You find out who is picking on him and knock down their parents’ doors. You show up at the damn school. Hell, you even pull your child out and homeschool him if that’s what it takes to keep him from hurting himself.
Instead, Quaden’s mother betrayed her son, taking a private moment and using it to profit. She exploited her son’s emotions in exchange for internet points, celebrity shoutouts and a trip to Disneyland. The money and attention may make Quaden feel better temporarily, but when the dust settles, he presumably still has to deal with the bullies and now has a video of his trauma immortalized on the internet.
Quaden’s Instagram page only furthers the notion that this is about grifting rather than bullying. In one recent post, the young boy holds up a stack of money and declares, ‘See? This is what ya get for working.’ In other photos, Quaden is seen sitting on top of a BMW, ‘flexin da back’, and rocking Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Burberry clothing. Even if this child was indeed bullied, it seems inappropriate for his obviously well-off family to be accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from strangers.
Unfortunately, Quaden’s bullying video — essentially trauma porn — is a symptom of a larger cultural issue spurred by social media. Rather than calling 911 or offering assistance to people in trouble, we start recording. Our desire for attention and virality often outweighs our capacity for compassion. It is the bystander effect on steroids. At the end of the day, online support can bring a temporary high, but it won’t solve Quaden’s problems in the long term. Rather than trying to teach the world a lesson — or worse, pad her pocketbook — Quaden’s mother ought to get her son some help.