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UBCO researcher conducts study to challenge notion of mean teens

Associate Professor John-Tyler Binfet's new research seeks to disrupt that notion by showing how adolescents demonstrate kindness. UBCO

A UBC Okanagan researcher has conducted a study to challenge the stereotype that teenagers are mean.

Associate professor John-Tyler Binfet, a researcher in the school of education at UBCO, says teenagers often get a negative reputation.

The bad reputation is largely showcased in media with reports around bullying, cyber-harassment and physical confrontations, according to Binfet.

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Binfet’s new research looks to shed that notion by showing how teenagers can demonstrate kindness.

“There’s been a shift in schools in recent years to move away from anti-bullying initiatives to efforts that embrace and promote pro-social behaviour,” said Binfet.

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“There is an emphasis on kindness throughout school curriculum, but little is known about how youth actually enact kindness.”

Binfet and his research team conducted a survey with 191 Grade 9 Okanagan students.

They asked the students to plan and complete five acts of kindness for one week.

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In total, the students accomplished 943 acts of kindness, with 94 per cent of the students completing three or more of their planned acts.

“The kind acts ranged from helping with chores, being respectful, complimenting or encouraging others and giving away items like pencils or money for the vending machine,” said Binfet.

The majority of the students enacted kindness to people they knew, according to Binfet.

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“It was interesting to see how adolescents support others with nuanced ways of helping that included helping generally, physically, emotionally and with household chores.”

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Following the one-week challenge, students were interviewed to see how their perception of their own kindness had changed.

Binfet says the findings showed a significant increase in their self-assessments of face-to-face and online kindness.

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