Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson worked together on an anti-bullying project in college. A decade later, it’s evolved into a movement that’s growing globally.
The two met at Pepperdine University where they were both studying film and television production. They’d both been bullied — Paul in middle school and Thompson in high school — and decided to create the documentary “Finding Kind.”
“It really felt like we were popping the lid off of something,” said Paul, explaining how the community related to their message of kindness.
Their award-winning documentary project ultimately became Kind Campaign, a non-profit that’s considered the premiere anti-bullying movement for girls worldwide. They now hold assemblies in hundreds of schools across North America, as well as a 19-week Kind Club Curriculum and Kind Camps, and they host a robust online community.
It’s essential to acknowledge that, at some point, we’ve all been both the bully and the bullied.
“We’ve all said and done things that have had negative impacts on others,” Thompson said. “Because of that, we are all the ones with the power to create change.”
During assemblies, Thompson and Paul ask participants to say they’re sorry.
“The ‘Kind Apology’ is a simple sheet of paper but it’s really putting the power in their hands to take ownership, create change, and really make amends with other people for things that have gone on in their lives,” Thompson said.
The “a-ha” moment comes when students realize they’re the ones who are in control of the dynamics at play at school, and that they can stand up for other people and themselves.
“Cyberbullying can be just as harmful as bullying someone face-to-face,” Thompson said.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are being used to harass, embarrass, and alienate others.
“We have seen students use social media to bully teens in so many ways,” Paul said. “It’s created a space where people can be anonymous or not. That disconnect, not having to look someone in the eye when you’re saying something, dehumanizes the situation.”
Teens see activities in real time on social media that they haven’t been invited to, such as parties. Missing out on those experiences can stir feelings of insecurity.
Paul says one student was bullied by her so-called friends, who had requirements for the numbers of post likes and followers she had to get on Instagram. If she met the criteria, she could sit with the group at lunch. The student was so stressed that she spent hours creating fake accounts that could “like” her posts.
It’s important to report cyberbullying when you see it so the social media platforms can intervene. Schools can get involved, too.
“Hold students responsible for things that are said and done online, just as they would hold them responsible if things were happening in the hallways or on campus,” Thompson said.
Tips for parents
Use social media as a platform for good.
“It’s about being mindful and asking yourself ‘Is what I’m about to say or do on social media impacting the world in a good way? Is it hurting someone?’ I feel we have a gut feeling, so really listen to that,” Thompson said.
Paul encourages parents to be honest with their kids. If you’ve been bullied, share your story, because it can allow your child to feel more engaged and trusting.
Next, involve your child in extracurricular activities so they can make friends outside of school and become more confident.
Both Paul and Thompson are new mothers themselves. They say they now have increased perspective on the need to protect children.
“It has inspired us even further to do everything we can to further this conversation, to spread kindness and inclusivity, and make it cool to be kind,” Paul said.
“I think people want to lean into kindness,” Thompson said.