Messy bedrooms, first loves, and family rows… usually the labels associated with teenagers.
Yet our future generations aren’t getting the credit they deserve, as there is evidence to show they are spreading kindness and boosting positivity not only in their schools but also local communities.
Our stars of tomorrow are indeed stars of today as the new study sings their praises for “surpassing expectations” when it comes to doing kind things for other people.
The research, carried out by the University of British Columbia in Canada, explored how the coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in people, including teens, donating time to volunteering.
Speaking about the results, Professor John-Tyler Binfet said he was elated to see stereotypes of teens being self-serving finally broken down.
Binfet said: “I’m not downplaying bullying in schools, but my focus is to find out what they [young people] are doing well, as a way of getting more of that out of them.
“Doing kind acts creates this behavioural pattern in children and adolescents. They see the world through a kind lens and seek opportunities to be kind; the ripple effect is this idea that the recipient of kindness has a higher propensity to, in turn, do more kindness.”
He reports this “ripple effect” sees individual acts leading to positive outcomes on entire schools, as well as improved student-to-student relationships and student behaviour.
The professor, who dedicates his studies to social and educational learning, states that teens find it easier to follow their peers than to act alone and stand out from the crowd.
Consequently, the more students who act kindly, the more likely their classmates will copycat this behaviour and before long everyone is doing it as the new normal.
Some of our favourite tales of incredible teens around the world include Joy Njekwe, 17, Margaret Akano, also 17, and Rachael Akano, 15, who invented the Memory Haven app to tackle dementia, and Ariella Pacheco, 17, who is smashing stereotypes with her range of inclusive dolls.
There is also pre-teen Lydia Denton, 12, who masterminded her Beat the Heat car seat to prevent baby car deaths.
Binfet concluded: “Being a teenager is a time when there is heightened self-censorship and scrutiny and self-doubt. It takes a lot of bravery and guts to be kind.”
His top tips for encouraging kindness in teenagers, as told to Positive News, are as follows:
1 Create space for reflection
Ask teens about the last time someone was kind to them and how it made them feel. Reflecting on this can help inspire them to pay it forward.
2 Model positive behaviour
Think about ways you can carry out random acts of kindness yourself so that teens you’re connected to can see the benefits.
3 Celebrate imperfection
Make sure teens know it’s okay not to do things perfectly first time and that small acts of kindness all add up as they may have some trepidation at first.
4 Encourage volunteering
If teens near you are stuck for ideas, there are many organisations, such as the UK’s National Citizen Service Trust, that offer opportunities for young people to volunteer.
To get involved, click here: We Are NCS.