Help Your Students Combat Cruelty by Making Kindness Go Viral

Four ideas to encourage middle schoolers to choose kindness

By: Sameer Hinduja

In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on intentionally fostering kindness and practicing peer respect. We don't want youth to simply not do the wrong thing, but do what is right instead—treat their peers with respect, compassion, and empathy.

To be sure, sometimes educators naively expect kids to know and apply the Golden Rule in all their interactions from early childhood. However, without intentional efforts to instruct and cultivate kindness, your students are simply not going to be focused on others by default. With that in mind, here are some ways you can encourage the children and teens in your life to make kindness go viral.

Set Up a Social Media Compliments Page Most teens have a profile on one or more social networking platforms and are very comfortable navigating these environments. Perhaps you could encourage them to set up a separate account for the purpose of dishing out anonymous accolades to their classmates. This idea was made famous by Kevin Curwick's "OsseoNiceThings" Twitter feed and Jeremiah Anthony's "West High Bros" Facebook compliments page. Now dozens of social media accounts have been set up by teens for the purpose of encouraging and praising their peers.

Participate in Random Acts of Kindness More and more individuals in all walks of life are realizing that it's actually really cool to be kind. It's even cooler when kindness is dished out anonymously and unexpectedly. Encourage your students or children to engage in random acts of kindness in their school or broader community. Search online for examples of young people being kind to others to give them inspiration. Dozens of videos and even the Twitter hashtag #RandomActsofKindness can direct you to ideas as well.

Create a Public Service Announcement Many middle schoolers have great ideas for promoting positivity that they would love to share with others. Give them creative freedom and let them loose to script out and record a short video with the simple purpose of encouraging others to be kind. They could interview their classmates or "famous" people in their school or community (like the principal or mayor). Leave it up to them about how to approach the activity—they'll surprise you and hopefully come up with something compelling! Then you can upload it to YouTube, your school's Web page, or social media accounts, and otherwise use it as a teaching tool to reach so many others!

Make Posters A simple activity that kids of all ages can tackle is to design inspirational posters that can be plastered on walls around the school. It doesn't take much artistic talent to inspire others to be kind with drawings or creative slogans. Teachers could work with a particular class or a specific subset of students to produce posters that could be covertly placed all over the school on Friday afternoon or over the weekend. The rest of the student body will return on Monday and be totally inspired by what they see all around them.

In closing, remember that promoting kindness doesn't have to be a big production. The best ideas are often among the simplest. Working together, parents, teachers, and teens can make tremendous strides toward combating cruelty in all its forms during this school year. Hopefully, as you share these ideas and stories of kindness, your teens will feel compelled to write their own!

Dr. Sameer Hinduja is a professor at Florida Atlantic University and Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. He has written seven books with Dr. Justin W. Patchin and is recognized internationally for his groundbreaking work on the subjects of cyberbullying and safe social media use. As a noted keynote speaker and trainer, Dr. Hinduja provides support to K-12 institutions and various youth organizations to encourage, empower, and equip students to make wise choices online.

Published January 2018


6 comments on article "Help Your Students Combat Cruelty by Making Kindness Go Viral"

Great ideas Dr. Hinduja! Thank you for the inspiration.

1/19/2018 6:07 PM

I really enjoyed your post on providing kindness to all students. Your ideas truly adhere to this generation of students strengths. The idea of setting up a social media account to praise ones peers is a great idea. I think it is a great way to have students recognize one another. I also think that making inspirational posters is a great thing to do for students, a lot of teachers will provide the posters for students when they arrive in an educational setting, but allowing them to create these posters and come up with ideas is a tremendous idea. I think the more freedom that students get when it comes to ideas like these, the better the outcome will be. Thank you for your post Dr. Hinduja, these ideas are a great way to truly make "Kindness go viral."

3/29/2018 6:01 PM

Thank you for sharing these tips! As a future ML educator, I am glad to have these ideas as a starting point to brainstorm even more ways to promote a positive classroom culture from the beginning.

9/17/2018 5:28 PM

After reading this article I felt like I took so much away from it! I loved how the article ended talking about how promoting kindness isn't something so big like some think, but if you work together with others it is something that can be easily achieved. I have documented these ideas in hope of using them one day with middle school kids.

11/6/2018 1:54 PM

Dr. Hinduja,

Your article is so refreshing to read. I want to badly to make kindness more prominent, but also want my students to know that kindness isn't limited to a select few. It is for everyone, and anyone can do it. Thank you for the reminder and ideas to use with students!

12/3/2018 9:29 PM

Make kindness cool!! This is a great theme for not only all teachers, but people everywhere. It is so much easier to be kind, and less stressful to be happy and enjoying the environment around you. By teaching kids the power of being kind I think we can change the whole classroom. Participating in random acts of kindness, creating posters, and just showing kids yourself how to be kind can show yourself as a role model to changing the way kids act. I also think sitting kids in assigned seating not next to their normal group of friends can help learn everyone is a like and there are nice things to be said about all. This can also teach kids how to work with people who they did not necessarily want to work with. However, a positive attitude and being kind will get you much farther along in all of your work.

1/24/2020 1:05 PM

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