For a shy kid, there are few things worse than having no one to sit with at lunch. Sit by yourself and you might as well put a target on your back to attract the bullies. Ask to sit at an occupied table and you face rejection — or worse, if that makes the bullies circle like sharks. But thanks to a new app called Sit With Us, kids on their own at lunch can find a place to sit with just the click of a button.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie Hampton from Sherman Oaks, California, knows how difficult the school lunchroom can be. When she was in the seventh grade, she ate lunch by herself every single day. "When you walk into the lunchroom and you see all the tables of everyone sitting there and you know that going up to them would only end in rejection, you feel extremely alone and extremely isolated, and your stomach drops," Hampton told NPR.
Hampton is now in her junior year at a different school, and she has plenty of friends to sit with at lunch. But the memory of those lonely lunch table days has stuck with her. "I felt that if I was thriving in a new school but didn't do anything about the people who feel like this every single day, then I'm just as bad as the people who watched me eat alone," said Hampton.
But rather than scold kids or guilt them into sitting with people they don't know at lunch, Hampton decided to take a positive approach to the problem. Sit With Us lets kids discretely search for a lunch table via their phones rather than deal with an awkward walk through the lunchroom. The app also allows students to act as "ambassadors," inviting others to join them if they wish.
Hampton emphasized the need for the app to be private so that kids don't have to feel embarrassed about eating lunch alone. "You feel like you're labeling yourself as an outcast when you ask to join a table with someone you don't know," Hampton explained. "This way, it's very private. No one else has to know. And you know that you're not going to be rejected once you get to the table."
Sit With Us is the perfect solution for new, shy or socially-awkward students who may have difficulty navigating the politics of the school cafeteria. And it's also good for kids like Hampton, who have lots of friends now but want to reach out to others to make sure they never have to sit alone.