A couple weeks ago I chaperoned a camping trip for my son’s class, sharing a cabin and a few days with eight pre-teen boys and daytime activities with all 82 students. There were plenty of stories.
Still, the first thing I shared with my wife was how impressed I was by this group of kids. I was struck by their “all for one, one for all” attitude and the support they showed to those who needed it, whether a special needs student or the kid too afraid to make the zip line leap. It truly gave me hope for the teens and young adults of tomorrow.
Then, this past week, I was on a call with one of our pro-bono clients, the team from Global Volunteers and The St. Lucia Project. When the discussion turned to a group of Arizona high school students who had made the trip to St. Lucia, we talked about the high value of their volunteer time. Not only were they particularly effective at engaging and, therefore, impacting the youth they were there to help, their social media proficiency made them more valuable than the average adult volunteer at spreading word about the project.
Last year, dosomething.org completed what is the most comprehensive study of youth volunteerism, polling a national sample of over 4,300 young people (internet users 13-22, with middle and high school students representing 65%). Some of the findings of note:
What does all this mean? First, it begs we reframe some of our thinking about youth. People are often too quick to paint teens with a brush dipped in laziness and narcissism. I would argue their social connections and broad worldview make them more likely to be Generation We than Generation All About Me.
There are also clear implications for brands that might consider cause marketing as part of their teen outreach.
As marketers, we can play to stereotypes that would have us think teens are self-centered, technology-absorbed zombies without much eye toward the world around them. Or, we can bet on teens and the power for good they represent. I think we’re better off with the latter.