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The State of Kindness in 2017, According to Kids: Survey Explores Caring, Compassion, and Empathy in the Next Generation

Columbus, OH • Thursday, November 2, 2017

2017 State of the Kid™ survey explores how current climate of intolerance and conflict is impacting kids – and how parents should respond.

November 2, 2017 (Columbus, OH) —The ninth annual State of the Kid™ survey released today by Highlights uncovers kids’ point of view on kindness and empathy and how kids absorb images and actions of intolerance and conflict around them. Their answers – received during a year of political divide, civility clashes, and racial strife – are both surprising and reassuring:

  • Parents think they are teaching kindness, but kids are getting a different message. When asked if they felt their parents wanted them to be kind, be happy, or do well in school, kindness ranked last. Making Caring Common, a project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, asked this question to middle and high school students nationally, and the results of their survey are similar to our findings with younger children.
  • Actions are caught: Kids notice and are impacted when adults act unkindly, and it influences how they process feelings and manage conflict.
  • Kids have a basic understanding of empathy, creating natural conversation opportunities for adults to reinforce empathetic behavior into adolescence and beyond, even in difficult situations.
  • When asked what one thing they would change in the world, nearly half of kids answered they want a kinder world.

Highlights, a beloved global media brand dedicated to helping children become Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™, is an active advocate for the voice of children. Highlights conducts the annual survey to give kids (ages 6-12) a national platform to share their thoughts and feelings about major issues often only discussed from an adult perspective. This year, Highlights received responses from 2,000 kids from across the country. Highlights team of experts led by Christine French Cully, editor-in-chief of Highlights magazine, along with Luba Falk Feigenberg, Ed.D, a developmental psychologist and research adviser to the Making Caring Common project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Sasha L. Ribic, Psy.D., clinical psychologist for children and adolescents, have used insights from the data to provide actionable takeaways for parents on how to use both positive and negative actions – in their own life or in the world around them - as a conversation springboard and teaching opportunity to instill kind and empathetic values in kids.

"We look forward to the thoughtful opinions of kids from the State of the Kid each year, but results from this survey were particularly insightful given acts of kindness and empathy can often feel too few and far between in our current society," says Cully. "The 2017 survey confirmed children are influenced by how we talk to and behave toward one another, as well as both the positive and negative news they see so frequently on TV or online."

"A wealth of research supports the idea that people with high emotional intelligence – people who are caring and empathetic – are more likely to be both successful and happy in life," says Cully. "We want to help kids understand that thinking about the common good and not only our own personal happiness enables us to be change agents and gives us the power to change the world for the better." The complete 2017 State of the Kid report, including additional data, verbatim responses from kids and video can be found at

The survey was fielded in April through May 2017, with the support of C+R Research. A total of 2,000 children (ages 6-12) completed the survey, including both Highlights readers and non-readers. Questions about how children and parents prioritize happiness, achievement, and caring were adapted
from a Making Caring Common survey.

About Highlights™
Highlights is a beloved global media brand dedicated to helping children become Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™ through engaging content and experiences that are focused on nurturing and developing the whole child. Through stories, poems, puzzles, jokes/riddles, science experiments, and art activities, kids are encouraged to think, problem solve, and build their literacy skills, all while having fun. Essential to childhood, Highlights reaches children 0-12 with their most popular magazines(Hello™, High Five™, Highlights™), digital apps, and books that include classic favorites like Hidden Pictures® puzzles, Goofus and Gallant™, Dear Highlights letters and more. Because Highlights offerings may be print or digital, purchased through subscriptions or at retail, kids can engage with Highlights anytime, anywhere. To learn more and connect with Highlights visit,,,, and

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