June 1, 2020
In September 2017, the Cartoon Network surveyed a large national sample (1,054) of 9- to 11-year-olds, in an effort to learn more about how kids treat each other. The findings, reported on the NPREd website in the article, “What Kids Think About Bullying and Kindness in The Trump Era” include the following:
- A large majority, 77 percent, reported witnessing bullying at some point.
- 1 in 5 kids admitted to being a bully.
- Only 14 percent strongly agreed that our nation’s leaders model how to treat people with kindness.
According to the article, the survey was undertaken at this time—the post-Trump era, because “many observers have been watching for any possible impact from the polarization of national discourse on our schools. Some studies have found that teachers are observing higher anxiety in the classroom.”
Interestingly, the children surveyed did not report increases in bullying compared to previous findings, but they did express a significant discrepancy between what they see from the adults around them and those at the top of the government: “More than nine out of 10 kids agree that both the adults in their family, and the ones at school, set good examples on kind behavior. Just 46 percent say the adults in our government do the same.”
On the Plus Side
The survey also asked participants about positive behaviors—acts of kindness. The findings are heartening:
- 64 percent of children report having tried to help a kid who was being bullied.
- More than 8 in 10 say they have gone out of their way to do something kind for another kid who was having a tough time, and nearly half (46 percent) say they have done so “many times.”
- Girls, African-American children and kids from low-income homes were much more likely than others to report having done something kind “many times.”
- The three-quarters of elementary school students who said that caring for others was “very important” to them, were twice as likely as other kids to say they have gone out of their way to do something kind for another kid (53 percent vs. 27 percent) and half as likely to admit to being bullies themselves.
- More than 8 out of 10 kids say it would help kids be kinder if every kid had a person in their lives who really cared and listened.
Are the positive results due to a greater emphasis on social and emotional learning and overall changes in school climate? It’s too early to tell, but regardless of the reason, it seems that the divisive behavior modeled at the top is not being mirrored among young kids, and in fact the trend is toward nicer, more compassionate behavior among this future generation of leaders.