There appears to be a growing movement among teens to, well, be nice. Or at least a movement to actively use social media to say nice things about others. We are all familiar with the myriad of ways that technology can be used to cause harm; this blog is dedicated to working towards limiting those behaviors and experiences. Some students, though, are now working to counteract all of that negativity by marshaling the power of technology to do good. Specifically, a number of teens have set up social media accounts, mostly on twitter, for the primary purpose of saying nice things about others at their schools.
The push to “Nice it Forward” seems to have been started by Kevin Curwick, a high school football player from Osseo, MN (a suburb of Minneapolis). Using his twitter handle “@OsseoNiceThings,” Curwick quite simply tweets nice things to his followers about his school and classmates:
“Probably the nicest girl ever. She’s fun to be around and loves to smile. A great adapted soccer and hockey player. Chelsey Gunderson.”
“Always has his heart in the right place and is doing his part to keep the kindness alive! Joe Tiedeman.”
“The best break dancer at Osseo. He’s the guy to go to for just about anything, especially a laugh. Billy Lor.”
The idea is catching on, not only around the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota (@ERHSnicewords; @EdinaNice; @MinnetonkaNice) but at numerous schools around the United States @TerraceNice; @GNHSNiceThings; @kentwood_nice). For example, a student at a school near where I live recently launched an account (@CamNiceThings) in response to two twitter accounts that were anonymously feeding negative information about the school (the hurtful accounts have since been removed, thanks at least in part to a student who condemned them on Facebook).
I really love this. Sameer and I have long advocated for getting students involved in activities to prevent bullying and for empowering teens to do their part to develop a positive climate at their school (see this fact sheet with some ideas to get them inspired). It reminds me of the Pink Shirt Day movement that started in Canada over 5 years ago when two Nova Scotia teens wanted to do something to combat the hurtful comments that were being directed toward a freshman who wore a pink shirt on the first day of school. Instead of directly confronting the bullies, the seniors bought 50 pink t-shirts and encouraged their classmates to wear pink to school the next day. Talk about a strong message of support for the targeted student. And as far as I can tell, no adults were involved in the execution of this simple yet effective idea.
That also appears to be the case with the Nice it Forward movement. Teens from around the country are stepping up, even without the prodding of adults, to show their classmates that bullying is not cool. The media might have us believe that the majority of teens are bullies and even though our research clearly shows that isn’t the case, it is helpful to see teens take visible steps in their schools to illustrate that the bullies are in the minority. “Nicing” it Forward, so to speak, sends a message to those who are being targeted for bullying that they are not alone and that at least some students at the school are on their side and appreciate who they are and what they do. Everyone has value. But it also implicitly encourages everyone in the school community to be nicer to each other. Students are demonstrating that it is cool to care. And that, my friends, is cool indeed.
...identifying the causes and consequences of cyberbullying