Did you know 83 percent of girls report being bullied either in school or online? Even before the Internet became a hotbed of mean comments and trolls hidden behind anonymous Ask.fm accounts, movies like Mean Girls portrayed the girl world as a vicious, animal-like environment where attacks can happen any minute across the cafeteria.
The founders of the Kind Campaign are looking to change this experience. Molly Thompson and Lauren Paul kicked off their campaign by interviewing kids, tweens, and teens about their experiences with bullying for the documentary Finding KIND in 2009. This month, in support of National Bullying Prevention Month, they start their 10th school assembly tour. Sponsored by Kleenex, the tour aims to bring awareness and healing to those affected by girl-against-girl bullying.
"I went through a really traumatic experience with a group of girls when I was in middle school and considered suicide," Paul says. "Molly had a similar experience in high school, and this bond is what inspired our campaign."
In the years since they've launched, the pair has watched bullying expand from the school hallways onto the Internet. "Students really use social media to bully each other," Paul says. "The Internet creates a really impersonal space where people forget they're talking to a human. [But] what you're saying still affects someone."
They've also watched schools become more accountable for what's happening. Several have zero-tolerance policies. But others are still in denial that bullying is an issue in their district. That's where Paul and Thompson step in with their school assembly tour.
"There are definitely times when we've walked into the room and that wall is up—girls tune us out and the faculty is in denial," Paul explains. "But very quickly that wall is broken. We make such an immediate connection with these girls. They're willing to open up."
During a two-hour assembly created for girls in third grade through college age, Paul and Thompson screen Finding KIND, have interactive discussions in which all the girls in attendance make a pledge to be nicer to each other, and write apologies to anyone they've hurt. Finally, they write kind messages to friends and more distant classmates to brighten their day. Through these actions, girls realize that by being kind to each other they can help prevent bullying.
So far, the impact Paul and Thompson have seen has been incredible. "One girl at a Utah school commented on an Instagram photo from after the assembly saying that when she walked into the event she had the intention of committing suicide that day," Thompson says. "But after the assembly, she thought it wasn't worth taking her life. Every KIND campaign assembly we walk away with this feeling of hope because we see the amount of change that is created no matter what age group we're talking to."
—Interviews by Jennifer Cole
Melissa Bykofsky is the associate articles editor at Parents who covers millennial trends and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter: @mbykofsky.