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