There’s so much bad publicity these days about teens and social media. Cyberbullying, inappropriate postings on social networking sites, apps that put teens in bad situations…problems like these tend to make headlines. But there are also students out there using social media in positive ways- sometimes wonderful, life-changing ways that show you’re never too young to make a difference.
We found some teens using social media for good deeds and worthy causes that we want to share with our readers. Get ready to be inspired.
1. Teen creates a collaborative website to share stories and inspire others
Gray created her first blog, Wondermint Kids, when she was 8 years-old. It was meant for friends and family, but eventually was watched by over 150k followers. Now a teen, she created Girl Folk for girls (guys are welcome, too) like her, interested in art, music, fashion, reading, food, and travel from a girl’s perspective.
The teens work really hard and inspire girls from around the world to turn in stories on mental health, self-care, travel, cooking and more. The website’s main teen writers live on the remote and rural island of Orcas and work with girls from Australia, LA, and France. The company is now a non-profit and is run by girls, for girls.
2. North Texas teens use social media to support disadvantaged students, tackle literacy gap issues, and more
Pranav Pattatathunaduvil, a 17-year-old student, is the Executive Director at a fully student-run 501(c)3 called the Be the Light Youth Association. Made up of over 30 high-school students from North Texas, they often use social media for good causes!
In July 2020, Be the Light used social media as a way to advertise a book drive for disadvantaged students. Be the Light Team members used platforms, like Instagram, to set up contactless book pickups from members of the community.
They also used social media to reach out to countless people in the area for book donations. As a result, they collected a whopping 2600 books, over 500% more than their initial goal. They donated the books to the Reading Partners of North Texas and Edufree to help tackle the literacy gap in the region.
Be the Light members have also used social media to advertise their weekly speech and debate classes for 4th-9th grade students. In 3 years, over 400 students have registered for their classes which helped them raise over $100,000. All of the profits are donated to local charities that support disadvantaged children.
3. Police officer’s daughter creates non-profit to help children of fallen law enforcement officers cope
Blue Line Bears is a nonprofit organization with the goal of helping the children of fallen law enforcement officers cope with the devastating loss of a parent. Megan, the daughter of a police officer, was 14 years-old when she created the organization after realizing many parents risk their lives each time they go to work.
Blue Line Bears uses the uniforms of fallen police officers to make teddy bears for their families. Through the use of donations and other contributions, Blue Line Bears covers the entire cost of the gift. Their goal is to help keep the officer’s memory alive and to help the child see that there are caring individuals who respect and appreciate men and women in uniform.
4. Teen uses GoFundMe to provide elementary school kids with notebooks
Jack, a 16 year-old high school student, has helped supply thousands of elementary school kids with notebooks through Kids in Need, a national non-profit organization that provides school supplies to under-resourced students around the country.
His fundraising page states:
With a donation of only $6, you could help provide an entire class of students the opportunity to make the most out of their education. Each box contains enough to supply an average size class of 24 students with notebooks. Shipping is already covered, meaning every single penny donated will be put directly into the funding of additional notebooks. During difficult times like these, the last thing parents need to be worried about (especially those who are having a difficult time making ends meet) is providing their children with school supplies.
The fundraiser has gathered so much attention online, that the George Shinn Foundation is graciously supporting Jack’s effort by matching the donation total. If he raises enough money for 20,000 notebooks, the Foundation will double that amount, supplying young students with up to 40,000 notebooks this upcoming school year.
5. Blogging in middle school and helping others earned teens local hero status
In middle school, Michael and Marc started using social media to promote their baseball blogs about the Boston Red Sox and NY Mets. In an effort to inspire his peers to never give up and pursue their dreams, Michael also wrote about athletes and how they would overcome their challenges. Marc wrote about living with food allergies and getting used to that as a kid for others struggling with the same issues.
Because of their blogging experience in middle school, Michael and Mark learned how to gain visibility on social media and then created a program called Teenager Entrepreneur. This program is a personal and business empowerment program <http://businesswhizkids.com/> that teaches students how to gain confidence, conquer fears, and find their passion. They offered this program to underprivileged adolescents, created a non-profit 501C3 to get grants, and have offered scholarships to children for the past 5 years.
The program was held at Fordham University for the first four years and now they travel to schools to empower students.
The NY Knicks granted them the Sweetwater Clifton ‘City Spirit’ Award which pays tribute to local heroes who have made a significant difference in the lives of others.
The award is named in honor of the late Knicks great, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, who was the first African-American to play for the Knickerbockers. Recipients of this award epitomize the same trailblazing characteristics of the Knicks Legend.
It all started with using social media in a positive manner and empowering their peers to do the same.
6. Teen, bullied as a child, uses social media as a tool to advocate tolerance, kindness, acceptance, and inclusion
Kolin is the founder of startup The Unity Challenge and is using social media as a way to attract people to join his cause to stop bullying, discord, and hate.
Kolin’s advocacy for tolerance, kindness, and acceptance started when he was a child. He was bullied by his grade school peers due to a neuro disorder that made him different. He was taunted, excluded from groups and shunned by classmates. He was not shown tolerance or inclusion by his young classmates. (Charles has a Non-Verbal Learning Disability. People who have NVLD, a brain-based condition, are characterized by difficulty recognizing and processing nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expression, and the nuances of conversation; poor visual, spatial, and organizational skills, and reduced motor performance. Often they are marginalized and isolated; consequently, they can experience social barriers throughout their lives.)
Kolin traveled to Washington with his parents to meet with dozens of Senators and Representatives to share his unity message. He is pushing for a national day, called Unity Day, to be recognized on the last Wednesday in October of every year.
“Whether you’ve been bullied like me or you simply have a different point of view on an issue, or you’ve been discriminated against, we need a Unity Day. We need a day where despite all of our differences we are unified for a purpose that is uniquely human …. our humanity itself,” says Kolin.
7. Teen throws memorable birthday celebrations for disadvantaged children
Julia Warren had an epiphany a few years ago. For most kids, birthday parties are an annual rite of passage- something usually taken for granted. Yet in Julia’s own hometown of Richmond, Va., there were kids living in poverty who had never had a single birthday party of their own. And this, she decided, was unacceptable.
Julia founded celebrate! RVA to give disadvantaged children in Richmond memorable birthday parties—with fun food, activities, decorations and, of course, cake—to make sure every child feels loved and celebrated on their special day.
The non-profit organization’s website serves to recruit volunteers as well as donations. The blog shows highlights from recent parties, including special guests like players from the University of Richmond Lacrosse team and even local police who come to celebrate with the birthday boy or girl. Meanwhile, Julia also blogs as The Girl in the Party Hat, sharing personal stories behind the celebrate! RVA parties. She’s spreading the love online while making wonderful memories for countless Richmond children. It’s enough to make her readers want to celebrate, too.
8. Three teens are furthering the acceptance of disabled children by promoting education
Ivan Boyers, Andrew Goodrum and Ariel Kim were part of a group of high school students who participated in a 2013 community service project in Ghana through the organization VISIONS Service Adventures. They volunteered at three different work sites, including helping to fix up a dormitory at a local center for disabled children, called the Physically Challenged Action Foundation (PCAF).
As their time in Ghana came to a close, the three friends vowed that upon returning home, they would work to raise money to help the center fulfill its dream of building an on-site school- and Ark’s Foundation was born. They raised almost $70,000, according to social media, to assist with the school’s construction.
Ivan explained that social media was a major catalyst in their effort. “Regarding our message, we really desired a brand. Therefore, we started by establishing a logo and a website that includes all the vital information for which donors would be looking. Unfortunately, we were still unknown to most of the world. Social media filled this void. Through Facebook, we post photos updating viewers about progress in Ghana but also simply informing potential donors of opportunities to give. Facebook provided a platform through which we could direct people straight to the donation page of our website. And the ‘share button has been a huge help to our spread.”
Andrew adds that he looks forward to the day they can revisit the site and see the school completed. “It would be the most amazing, awe-inspiring experience,” he says, “to see the radiant smiles on the children’s faces as they head to school for the first time.”
9. Teen motivates people of all ages to identify their passion and take action
If there’s such a thing as a social-media prodigy, Hannah Alper is it.
Hannah, who is from Toronto, launched her blog Call Me Hannah when she was just nine years old. Her father, Eric Alper, says Hannah’s passion for speaking out about important causes started early on with her love of animals, which quickly spread to concern for threatened habitats and the environment as a whole.
Fast forward four years, and Hannah, now 13, has not only built a huge following for her blog but gained influence through public speaking and so much more. She has 34,000 followers on Twitter, writes for The Huffington Post, and serves as both a Me to We Motivational Speaker and Free the Children Ambassador. Meanwhile, her advocacy has expanded to also include anti-bullying efforts and celebrating other young role models, including Malala Yousafzai.
Hannah goes by a lot of descriptions, from eco-warrior to “kindraiser.” And if you want to know what kindraising is, here it is in Hannah’s own words from one of her Huffington Post blogs: “Kindraising is all about changing our communities and the world through kindness. I believe that it takes more than money to create a lot of change that we’re working on and that compassion, empathy and kindness play a huge part in reaching our goal.”
10. Teen helps disadvantaged children play sports
Competitive cheerleader Jah’Kiyla Atwaters of Boynton Beach, Florida was practicing cheerleading routines at a park when she noticed some girls outside the gate watching. When Jah’Kiyla encouraged them to try cheering themselves, one of them responded, “My mom died, and my sister is taking care of us. She doesn’t have any extra money for me to cheer.”
Saddened by the story, Jah’kiyla told her mom, and together they formed the Jump with Jah’kiyla (JWJ) Foundation to provide children who normally couldn’t afford it the opportunity to play sports. They created a website to encourage donations and to help kids and their families apply for sports vouchers. Jah’kiyla also launched a social media campaign asking kids to create, and photograph themselves with, posters of their favorite sport.
The website BlackCelebrityGiving highlighted the JWJ Foundation in 2014, noting, “The urge to help others and her outgoing personality led Jah’Kiyla to where she is today.”
11. Teen is on a mission to end hunger around the world
Through the Joshua’s Heart Foundation, Joshua Williams of Miami, Florida has recruited more than 25,000 young volunteers and helped raise more than $1 million to help feed hungry individuals and families around the world. Having developed a passion for helping the hungry when he was just four years old, he uses his website to encourage people of all ages to join in the cause.
To help spread the word and good deeds, Joshua makes use of all the major social-media channels including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. His site also features blogs from other young people who help spread the word and share their experiences with the organization.
“Joshua empowers and engages young people ages two and up to find their passion or purpose and use it for the better good,” explained his mom.
As parents and educators, it might be tough to see the positive side of social media sometimes. But for some teens, it’s not all about finding the best filter for selfies or the latest viral video challenge. Here at SmartSocial.com, it’s our mission to keep kids safe on social media so they can shine online- and these young people are certainly shining examples about the positivity that can be found online.