This week I chatted with Betsy Hughes and Kenzie McKallor of Gilbert, Arizona about a new campaign they launched at their school. A campaign so pure and positive, so seamlessly in step with our mission at Ruby Girl, we wanted to share it with you.
Maybe you can get it rolling in your neck of the woods!
It’s a campaign to combat bullying and negativity on social media by simply posting the positive. Think about it. One positive post can send light into someone’s darkness. One compliment can make you smile for days. One uplifting thought can change a friend’s perspective.
So let me tell you about Betsy and Kenzie. These darling 8th graders at South Valley Junior High are not just making friends on social media, they’re making a difference in the content. But as most teens will probably agree, navigating an online world with wisdom and boundaries is no easy task. Betsy and Kenzie noticed that many of their friends were making good online decision, but others weren’t.
“There’s too much negativity right now, especially at our age,” said Kenzie. “We think the biggest challenge for teens on social media today is self-esteem, because it is so easy to get caught up in what is cool and popular. People forget that being themselves and being kind is what matters.”
“Cyber-bullying is also an issue,” says Betsy. “It is so easy to put each other down online, because you are not face-to-face with them.”
The girls explained to me what TBH stands for, an acronym I hadn’t seen in my more sheltered world of Instagram and Facebook. It stands for “to be honest,” and what usually follows is a critical jab, a disapproving snub, or some kind of snarky quip, that goes public on your feed where everyone can see it.
Just to be clear, I looked up the definition of cyber-bullying. It’s the use of electronic communication to bully a person – like posting hurtful comments or information about someone, purposely sharing something meant to be private, harassing via instant or text messages, threatening or insulting someone while texting, commenting, or gaming, and excluding someone online.
It’s real friends. Did you know 25% of teenagers in 2014 reported being bullied online or through social media? And guess who it affects the most? Girls.
According to the “Indicator of School Crime and Safety: 2015” survey (most recent available), a higher percentage of females than males ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school during the school year. More girls than boys said they were made fun of, called names, insulted, were the subject of rumors, and were excluded from activities on purpose. The survey analyzed 23 indicators, one of them being cyber-bullying.
Betsy came home from school one day, after viewing inappropriate media someone had posted, and was very disturbed about it. She had also learned recently of a friend who had committed suicide and was a victim of cyber-bullying. This was devastating news to her. Rather than trying to just move forward, however, she felt the need to do something about the problem.
Betsy and Kenzie started talking and realized they felt similarly about social media. That’s when they decided to act. “We came together one day and said: Hey! I don’t think this is right,” said Betsy. “We wanted to do something positive for everybody,” Kenzie said.
Betsy and Kenzie took an idea to their principal: a campaign to encourage students to post the positive. Their principal gave them his full support and by the end of summer they had the beginnings of a website, a name for their campaign, an instagram account, facebook page, and hashtags. As the new school year began they pitched their idea to the entire school board, and the Gilbert mayor. Their presentation was received with a standing ovation!
So, how can you help?
Start posting the positive! Kenzie and Betsy suggest posting shout-outs to people you know who are doing good things like being kind, accomplishing something hard, or being a good friend. They recently posted about a girl at their school who is always giving sincere compliments to others. You can post about a service opportunity you’ve helped with and recruit others to help. Post an uplifting quote or saying. Post something beautiful in the world that helps you feel grateful. The realm of positivity is wide open!
And one more thing you can do that has a powerful, positive impact? Make time to leave kind comments. “That helped us strengthen our own friendship,” they said.
To join their campaign, or start something at your school, follow them on any of their social media outlets @postingthepositive, like their Facebook page, and tag them on anything positive you post. Use the hashtags #heart or #postingthepositive with your school initials at the end of the hashtag.
“We don’t want to see negativity online,” said Betsy. “We want people to have in their minds that if they are about to post something online, they need to think if a person will like it or if the person will be offended.”
So I guess, this will be my positive post for the day. Giving a shout-out (woot woot) to these beautiful, strong-minded girls who were willing to stand up and lead out in the space of social media. Already, they have had an incredible amount of enthusiastic feedback and press. Their campaign is taking off. Make sure you are part of it!
Get to know Betsy and Kenzie better by watching this video they made that has been shown at schools in the Gilbert School District. I love their bright, shiny faces. They are so excited to make a difference. One positive post at a time.
And for more information, visit their website. (Pardon the dust, they say, it is still under construction.)