Pranks Are the Worst, Part Eleventy-Seven

[Content Note: Pranks; bullying; hostility to consent; child abuse.]

Pranks are inherently predatory. The entire intent of pranking is to get one up on someone who is vulnerable, by virtue of their trusting the prankster because of an existing relationship or by virtue of being deliberately denied relevant information or by virtue of having an expectation of safety or security or normalcy. Pranks are also, by their very nature, hostile to consent, because most pranks don't work if the person being pranked is able to give enthusiastic consent to whatever is about to be done to and/or around them.

Taking advantage of someone for a laugh, betraying their trust for one's own amusement, is a shitty, bullying thing to do.

And when a parent does it to a child, it's abusive.

So it is that every year I rage*seethe*boil when Jimmy Kimmel's "parents prank their kids by telling them they ate all their Halloween candy" video goes viral. (You may recall my previously writing about his equally stellar Garbage Christmas Present prank.) Here is a typical write-up of this year's video, in which one inevitably finds lines like, as here: "Keep your eyes out for the girl at 2:30, who is truly heartbreaking."

Heartbreaking is an appropriate word for what happens, which I will not post or transcribe. Suffice it to say that many of these kids—including the girl at 2:30 and the boy who admonishes his mom after she reveals she was just kidding, "Well, that's not very kind!"—are more decent human beings than their parents.

Kimmel says his show received "an avalanche" of submissions from parents willing to play this dirty trick on their kids.

The thing about parents pranking their kids—and I cannot believe I need to write this—is that it fundamentally shatters children's security and trust in the idea that their parents will not harm them. (Which, in some of these families, may never have existed in the first place.) The takeaway for a child whose parents like to prank them is that their parent(s) might harm them, and no amount of "JUST KIDDING!" can fully repair the crack in the edifice of what should be an inviolable trust.

Parents who prank, tease, and ridicule their own kids, even if they're "just kidding," do so at the risk of their kids' ability to feel safe even in their own homes. That is not a risk any parent should be willing to take with a child.

And somehow, I don't imagine that "but I only did it so people could laugh at your despair on NATIONAL TELEVISION!" would bring a whole lot of comfort.

Stop it, parents. Just stop.

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