Two remarkable stories lit up the internet last week. Both were inspiring as examples of the way young people can come together in positive, supportive ways. Both were instructive by reminding us that most people want to do the right thing, to be a force for good. Both were examples of the thinking behind A Platform for Good.
In Michigan, a high school sophomore, Whitney Kropp, was voted onto the homecoming court, but as a joke. Classmates cruelly teased her about it and the sophomore boy in the homecoming court withdrew. Kropp had been bullied before, but this humiliation had her, for a moment, considering suicide. News of the incident spread fast. A Facebook page in her support was created and quickly gathered tens of thousands of likes. Local businesses got involved, donating hair styling, an elegant gown, and paying for her dinner. "This was something that was really awful, could have ended awful, and because so many people came together, it just turned right around," her mom said.
On Reddit, someone posted a photo of a Sikh woman with the caption “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.” The apparent purpose was to make fun of the young woman for having visible facial hair. Some of the responses were insulting, others were supportive. Then Balpreet Kaur, the woman in the photo, replied with a thoughtful and self-assured explanation of her beliefs and Sikh traditions.
What made this story remarkable was that the person who originally posted the photo responded to her with an apology to her, her beliefs, and to other Sikhs. And the Reddit community was quick to praise the way Kaur handled the situation. A rude and ignorant act turned into a positive learning experience for many.
In both cases, something that started out with bad intent provided opportunities for young people to collectively support the victim and turn a negative into a positive. That’s the kind of behavior we should want to cultivate, among kids and adults.
We can start developing these positive habits with something as simple as kids helping parents and teachers understand the technology that plays such an important role in their lives. Understanding the capabilities of and getting familiar with how kids use these tools gives adults not only a deeper appreciation of kids’ own abilities to use technology for education, entertainment, and enlightenment, it also gives us a better handle on how we can help guide kids when the moment for positive intervention comes. As Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, said, “The potential to do good online is enormous and we hope A Platform for Good (PfG) will tap into that potential and be a small part of a much larger movement.”
Image is from People Magazine.