Earlier this year President Obama spoke at the University of California-Irvine’s graduation commencement and shared, “Your generation — the most educated, the most diverse, the most tolerant, the most politically independent and the most digitally fluent in our history — is also on record as being the most optimistic about our future. “ He’s right, and the research backs him up, but what’s remarkable is how rarely mass media portrays this changing young consumer in such an optimistic light.
This past April, we launched a program called Prank it FWD in partnership with the largest social change organization for young people, DoSomething.org. Our programming has been viewed over 30 million times and was we’re bringing it back next month with the idea that we can use pranks for good. What was amazing, beyond the elaborate and joyful moments, was that our audience of young people without us asking sprung into action to create their own pranks for good. They created a huge tip for their own deserving waiter, others raised money for their favorite janitor to visit his active military son and a company in Canada put together a dream wedding for a couple in need.
DoSomething.org was so inspired by the success of Prank it FWD's positive pranking, they worked with the Prank it FWD team to surprise one of our members with a $10,000 scholarship for participating in a campaign called The Hunt in partnership with Toyota.
Even more promising news is that young people taking action was not exclusive to our program or to Do Something. Recent research points out that teens (specifically 16-19 year olds) are more likely than any other age group under the age of 35 to have volunteered in the past year. These numbers are increasing over the last few years and while the rationale is varied, signs point to teens coming out of the recession having seen a more direct impact to their own families and being more aware of people in need.
Traditional media is far too quick to paint the picture of the new generation of teens as lazy, parent’s basement dwelling, Ritalin poppers, and we’re glad to report that the few don’t speak for the generation. The more we learn the more enthusiastic we are about the ways teen consumers are going to bring rapid change to the media space. The reason they’re flocking to digital platforms and digital content isn’t just because they’re constantly connected and armed with new devices, it’s also because the programming available is authentic and the people they connect with are far more like the people they see in their daily lives.