happy family learning to spread kindness

We Have A Responsibility To Spread Kindness

Dear reader: I’ve partnered with Google in their Be Internet Awesome campaign and I’m excited to share my thoughts on how to spread kindness (in-person and online) because I truly feel that it’s so important! Full disclosure, I am a part of the Forward Influence Network and this is a sponsored content post that I’m being compensated for. However, all the thoughts + perspectives, plus my words (of course!) are my own. Thank you for reading!

We have a responsibility to spread kindness. I love this thought because it really resonates with me and both in my work and personal life. As a classroom teacher, online writing coach, and bonus mom to my boyfriend’s son, I’m always thinking about how I can teach kindness, how I can share kindness, and how I can show the little lives around me what it means to truly be kind—both in-person and online.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and so this idea of love and care for others is even more important. I was bullied for years when I was younger. And I know I’m not alone. Sometimes it feels like we’re powerless to what happens to and around us. Sometimes it feels like we’re just one person and we can’t possibly make a difference. What I’ve realized, though, in my personal experiences, in loving on my boyfriend’s son (Austin), and in teaching my students, is that we have power.

As Google shares its campaign, #BeInternetAwesome, I’m inspired to spread the message and ways we can change our thinking:

1. Know that your actions have an effect on others.

First and foremost, we have to understand that the things we do or say (both in-person and online) have power. In the digital form, we have to think about what we’re ‘liking,’ commenting on, or even sharing on our pages. We have to think about the people that will read these messages and what posts say about us. Although a digital platform isn’t the entirety of who we are, it’s a big representation. And in our current culture, it’s what people see (and often see first).

Whether you’re thirteen or ninety-three, ask yourself this: What am I sharing? Why am I sharing it? And how does it influence others?

2. Focus on what you have the power to change or control.

Something I’ve been really trying to teach myself this year, alongside Austin and my students, is the power of understanding what we can and can’t control. We can’t control how others treat us, their actions, or what they decide to do. We can control our reactions—so we’re not powerless.

When it comes to bullying, we have the options to (1) not respond or feed into the negative talk/behavior, (2) block the person, and (3) report the person. When it comes to in-person interactions, we always have the choice to not engage and to walk away. Sometimes it feels like we can’t change what’s happening to or around us (think bystander mentality!), but we have to remember we have the choice.

We also have the power to change things by simply taking a stand.

3. Be an upstander, not a bystander.

According to StopBullying.gov, 71% of students have witnessed bullying in some form. But only 20-30% of people report it. Why?

I know from my personal experience that it’s hard sometimes to share about bullying. It can feel intimidating, embarrassing, or like Austin has told me, “it’s being a tattletale.” But we have a responsibility to share kindness and to empower people around us (especially the younger generations!) that reporting bullying isn’t something to be ashamed about.

We have to learn to be upstanders, not bystanders. We have to know that standing up for someone being bullied can change his or her life, even if it feels like we’re just one person who can’t possibly make a difference.

4. Remember the face and voice behind the screen.

We’re all guilty of relying on technology a little too much. Sometimes we fall into the habits of forgetting that there’s a real person behind the text, behind the Instagram post, etc. When it comes to being a good digital citizen, we have to remember that it’s cool to be kind. It’s cool to treat others the way we want to be treated.

Some simple ways we can do that are posting positive messages on things we see and remembering the ‘golden rule’ of treating others how we want to be treated. We can report negative behavior (even if it feels uncomfortable to do so). And we can tap into resources that help us teach others, for example, Kind Kingdom which is great for teaching kids and students about how to spread kindness online.

we have a responsibility to spread kindness

PS: For those of you who have young people in your lives (personally or professionally), I created this pinnable image. Feel free to save, print + share with your kids and classrooms. [Tag @_marisadonnelly on Instagram and I’ll repost!]

PPS: If you want to learn more about Google’s #BeInternetAwesome and #ItsCoolToBeKind campaign, click here.

Featured Image Credit: Andrea Vehige

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