It’s shown me how a little kindness can really spread.
It really showed me what our school is capable of. I’m really proud of our school.
Those quotes come from two high school sophomores, and you might not guess the tool used to elicit those responses — social media. You need not go far to find heartbreaking examples of social media accounts used to embarrass or bully others. But there are individuals and groups who are using their virtual resources to do extraordinarily kind and supportive things.
When I present reACT to Bullying at a school, I talk to the students about the opposite of bullying: kindness. Many elementary schools work to actively teach kindness, using tools such as a “buddy bench” on the playground. Elementary students are often eager to practice kindness with their peers. But for middle and high school students, social media frequently presents an additional challenge when it comes to showing kindness. So I share concrete examples of kids their age buying a classmate a pair of much-needed basketball shoes or feature the grand total of a school-wide benefit dance marathon and sharing those events on social media.
It can be a revelation for both students and adults to see social media as a positive force.
Instagram’s Friends of NDHS
Meet Megan, Adrienne, Jara, and Leah, sophomores at Northeast Dubois High School in Dubois, Indiana. Under the guidance and mentorship of school corporation social worker Paige Mundy, these four girls are using social media for good.
Instagram is a popular medium for adolescents, and what better place to create and spread positivity? The four girls founded the “Friends of NDHS” Instagram account, which features their high school classmates in a positive light. Subjects are randomly selected from the school roster or can be nominated by others. As with many things on social media, it didn’t take much time for the account’s impact to be felt.
Friends of NDHS is a private account; those wanting to view it must request to follow the account. This keeps the account focused on students within the high school. The four girls share administrative duties, posting positive things about their classmates anonymously, which turned out to be extremely impactful. “I overheard someone say they went back and looked at the post featuring them whenever they felt down,” says Adrienne. Adds Megan, “There is one person at school who tries to leave a positive comment on each post.” One of the favorite aspects of maintaining the account was the anonymity. Nearly every girl mentioned being right next to a classmate who noted what a positive difference the account had grown to be. Admittedly, though, it was a difficult task to fight the urge to reveal the secret.
Lifting one another up in this way has affected the school as a whole. Mundy noted that the social media account has helped in the school’s effort to improve school culture. They’ve seen fewer detentions and even improved behavior in the lunch line and other common areas.
What does the future hold for this Instagram account? The girls felt a need to make a sustainable impact. “We plan on handing the responsibility over to next year’s sophomore class,” explains Leah. After some instructions and the handing over of the account password to the new group of students, the original group of girls will still be available as mentors. Quite a humble gesture according to Ms. Mundy. “These girls are giving the younger classes an opportunity to embrace leadership roles,” she says.
As for this group of young leaders, they have learned valuable lessons about kindness. According to Jara, “Kindness keeps going and going. A little goes a long way.” Adds Megan, “Don’t hold back. Give as much kindness and positivity as you can.”
Developing a positive and supportive school culture is one of the key ingredients within a schoolwide bully prevention program. The Friends of NDHS Instagram account is one example of this positivity and support, and the best part is that it comes directly from the students!