5 Eye-Opening Insights About Girls and Bullying on World Kindness Day
When we founded Kind Campaign in 2009, no one was talking about bullying — at least not at the level we see today. About a year later, the media started covering a series of devastating teen suicides that were all a result of bullying taking place at school. Those traumatic events put this issue under a national spotlight.
For the first time in history, bullying was being taken seriously, rather than being accepted as a rite of passage.
With recent television shows that address bullying, like “13 Reasons Why,” or celebrities such as Lady Gaga sharing their personal journeys to overcome bullying, we’ve seen this topic take shape in new ways. As Founders of the internationally-recognized nonprofit Kind Campaign, our work aims to end the systemic issue of girl-against-girl bullying.
After wrapping our 13th Founders Assembly Tour this fall, where we traveled to schools in Los Angeles and New York to deliver interactive and educational anti-bullying assemblies, we’ve discovered some encouraging developments surrounding this issue, and we’re feeling incredibly optimistic.
In honor of this year’s World Kindness Day, here are five incredible transformations surrounding kindness that we’ve witnessed as we have traveled into school hallways for the last eight years.
1. Girls are taking a stronger stance and advocating to be kind.
During all of our assemblies, the girls have an opportunity to write a “Kind Pledge” — an action step related to bullying, kindness or self-confidence that resonates with them and inspires positive change. We give the girls time to fill out and reflect on their Kind Pledges. We then welcome them to share their pledges in front of their peers.
It was remarkable for us to see the complexity, depth and call-to-action conveyed in so many of the Kind Pledges from this last tour. This season, we heard girls share pledges touching on gender stereotypes, political division, LGBTQ issues, sexual assault, and how they can personally contribute to the conversation, support peers who are affected by these issues and used the opportunity to share some of their own personal story.
The Kind Pledges shared were a real representation of the current social climate and showcased the issues these amazing young ladies have on their minds and hearts. It was encouraging to witness because it left us walking away from this specific tour feeling like the younger generation is more socially aware and conscious than ever before.
2. As the age groups of girls partaking in bullying practices get younger, the stakes to address bullying get higher.
We’ve noticed a dramatic increase in demand for our assemblies at elementary schools. Once we arrive there, we hear young girls vulnerably share their experiences with bullying similar to what you would find in a middle school or high school.
While it is an unfortunate reality girls are exposed to bullying so jarringly early on, the need to address this age group — and bullying as a whole — grows paramount. They’re some of the most impressionable females we work with, which makes the need for education about the detrimental effects of bullying — and the positive impact generated from practicing kindness — extremely dire. We’ve seen schools across the country responding, and ultimately, seeing the importance in starting this conversation as young as possible.
It’s an essential step forward in the kindness movement.
3. There are more avenues to bully now — but they all lead to a dead end.
It’s been fascinating to watch the evolution of social media over the last eight years, and its direct impact on students and their daily experiences at school. While cyberbullying was initially made possible decades ago, the avenues to engage in it have, unfortunately, expanded enormously. With the advancement of technology and the ever-growing popularity of social media channels, bullying can happen, literally, at one’s fingertips. These platforms are pervasive in youth’s everyday lives, especially girls.
Unfortunately, there is now no escape from your social climate at school. Whereas previously, a student could go home from school and have at least the evening to exist without feeling connected, now with cell phones and social media, students are surrounded by their experience at school 24 hours a day.
Fortunately, girls are realizing not only are these channels impermanent, but this phase of their lives is also only temporary. Having conversations with them about the short-lived nature of this period gives them a different perspective; they feel less overwhelmed by their experiences and more hopeful about kindness coming to light.
4. Girls are ready to take one step closer to kindness through accountability.
During all of our assemblies, the girls are given the opportunity to write an apology to someone. We witness so much healing and reconciliation with this activity. It was particularly special to see how many girls came up and asked for extra Kind Apologies. Knowing so many girls not only wrote a single apology to someone, but thought of multiple people in their lives to address, demonstrates the growing accountability girls take for their actions.
And that’s motivating them to be kinder, moving forward.
5. The walls of each school may be different, but the emotional experience of the girls are the same.
Every school that we walk into is different — filled with unique people, living their lives, and dealing with their individual circumstances. But what has withstood the test of time is that this issue, girl-against-girl bullying, is universal. There has not been a single school we’ve come across that hasn’t dealt with this issue in some way or another.
In fact, often times, we are greeted by the faculty sharing a story with us about an incident that happened in the hallways earlier in the week, if not on a daily basis. While each school dynamic and respective girl’s situation is unique to them, we see that the negative aftermath of bullying is identical from school to school, city to city, and state to state.
The circumstances of girls’ bullying and being bullied may vary slightly, but the emotional turmoil that bullying generates bridges the gap of girls across our nation.
One more silver lining though? These young girls truly do share the power and growing determination to promote kindness. Their will to get involved and create changes is a testament of that.
Today, we see a new generation of activists rising up; young people who are not afraid to speak out against policies, action, inaction, anything and everything they don’t agree with, and demand to see change. The case is no different with bullying in schools. These young girls recognize their power to promote kindness, and after our Kind Campaign Assemblies, carry that resolve to get involved and help stop bullying in their everyday lives.
If you are interested in becoming involved with the Kind Campaign movement, visit www.kindcampaign.com or follow us @kindcampaign. Another way to be a part of the conversation is by literally wearing it! In 2014, in alignment with the 10-year anniversary of the movie “Mean Girls,” we released the phrase “You Can Sit With Us” and witnessed another major turning point in the anti-bullying conversation. Check out our limited-release “You Can Sit With Us” tees, launching in honor of World Kindness Day on Omaze.com.
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Thinkstock photo by elfiny