EDITORIAL: Pranks can be harmful

Editorial cartoon by Troy Cartwright
 Editorial cartoon by Troy Cartwright
Editorial cartoon by Troy Cartwright

“Nobody ever died from a prank” is a commonly heard sentiment among jokesters. The truth is that people have died from pranks, and many people and property are hurt or damaged daily. Sometimes the damage is permanent. When someone dies because of a prank, it has gone too far.

Such was the case for 18-year-old Premila Lal, who was shot accidentally by a family friend while pulling a prank on him. She died Sept. 6. Her friend, 21-year-old Nerrek Galley, is being held with multiple charges pending while police investigate. She was the prankster. He thought she was an intruder. This was one joke he will always remember that they never got to laugh about with absolute consequences that she never considered.

While many people pull pranks so they can video and upload them to the Internet on YouTube, Vine and other social media sites, it has become so common that there are multiple TV shows promoting pranking such as Jack***, Punked and Off Their Rockers. Sometimes the pranks are funny, but more often they are harmful, inappropriate or sexual. When someone’s home is trashed, property is damaged or a person is injured, endangered or afraid for their life, the prank has become an actual threat.

Some high school and college kids in Florida thought it would be funny to break into ex-NFL star Brian Holloway’s house and throw a party. The prank went awry when more than 300 kids arrived and trashed the $1.5 million vacation home, causing more than $20,000 in damage. They posted tweets and photos of themselves, each other and the damage they caused in real time. They never considered that they’d get caught, that it would affect them for the rest of their lives. They didn’t think about the harm they were causing or the example they were setting for pushing the boundaries.

Holloway, a father of eight, wants to give the “pranksters” a second chance through a website called http://www.helpmesave300.com/. Of the 300, only one parent and four students have taken responsibility for their actions.

What happened to discipline and responsibility? Why do people pull irresponsible pranks on others and expect there to not be a consequence? Some do it for their six seconds of Internet fame. Others are looking for long-term recognition among their peers. People love to laugh, especially at the expense of others, but when people push the envelope and cause damage for attention, boredom or envy, the prank has crossed the line.

If you are a prankster, know your audience, know how the victim reacts to jokes, know how far is too far and tone things back. The line that you might not cross may have already crossed someone else’s boundaries. Not everyone thinks jumping out of a closet and screaming is too far; but it was for Lal and Galley.

When individuals pull pranks without considering how the victim will receive the joke, they set themselves up for sorrow, anger and heartache. Be safe. If you wouldn’t want it to happen to you, don’t do it to someone else. Stay within the social boundaries and mores. Consider your target’s reaction. Think about how you’d feel. Be prepared for the consequences. Some jokes can’t be retracted. Some wounds never heal, and friends never can be replaced. Protect your relationships. Protect your reputation and never prank strangers. It might be the last prank you ever pull.

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