Viacom’s umbrella for social responsibility – Viacommunity, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, were fortunate to explore one of the unexpected currencies of cool among high school students: kindness.
Not athleticism. Not ambition. Not fashion. Kindness.
A research study conducted for Viacommunity and the Born This Way Foundation by Schireson & Associates found that it’s the core quality of kindness that is characteristic of cool.
The online survey of 438 14-17 year-old teens, representative of the US population in age, gender, and racial distribution, revealed:
• 59% of high schoolers think it’s cool to be kind.
• Kindness is the second most desired trait among high schoolers, following smart. From a list of aspirations including kind, smart, athletic, funny and brave, 33% most want to be kind, right behind smart at 39%.
We see a social currency for kindness emerging. But, don’t walk away with the wrong impression. We’re not saying high school has turned into a unicorn filled utopia of smiling happy teenagers.
Kind may be cool, but 1/3 of high schoolers still reported being bullied last month. Why?
It may be one thing to be kind; and quite another to stop mean. The study found that only 1 in 5 high schoolers regularly stand up to bullies and only 21% identify as brave.
Cheer up. Brave acts do bubble up organically. Racial and religious based bullying is 2 times less prevalent than one of the most popular forms of bullying (appearance cruelty). It is also far more likely to get broken up than most other forms of bullying.
Further, students who stopped an act of bullying more than once reported being half as worried about the downsides of getting involved as students who only intervened once. The more students intervene, the less scared they are. Granted, being “less afraid” is less awesome than being brave, but at least it opens up a direction forward.
From all of this data, the question follows, how can we unblock bravery to channel the kindness we know is there?
As expected, the answer isn’t abundantly clear. At Viacom, our approach is to educate and empower our audiences to take brave stands on the social issues they care about, from digital abuse (MTV’s A Thin Line) to gun violence (BET’s Mothers On A Mission: Against Urban Gun Violence), health (Nickelodeon’s The Big Help), education (Paramount’s Kindergarten to Cap & Gown), sustainability (Comedy Central’s Address the Mess) and many more initiatives.
This Wednesday, Viacommunity will be taking a stand, voicing its support for the Born This Way Foundation through its inaugural piece of content during tonight’s Do Something Awards on VH1:
While we all may take different approaches, it’s undeniable that kindness is living inside of teens, waiting to be activated. They just need help manifesting it sometimes. Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation gets that. As the Foundation’s lead media partner, we’re spreading this message so that others do as well.
Cynthia Germanotta is Co-Founder and President of the Born This Way Foundation.
David B. Katz is Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for Viacom.