Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Get active, change the world: Social campaigns for teens (Teens Can Make a Difference)

If you spend any time looking at the 40 Developmental Assets (which you should), you’ll note that several of them touch on the idea that teens want (and need) to have a sense of purpose and feeling of control over their lives and futures; they need to know that they can have a positive influence on the world in which they are living.  But if today’s current spate of dystopian fiction is any indication, we are living in a world with an increasingly bleak looking future.  I think the popularity of dystopian fiction reflects some of the hopelessness and despair that is par for the course in the teen years, but it is also a distinct reflection of the economic despair and concern that influences our current climate.  Having given you that ultra cheery look at the current zeitgeist, let me tell you that there are people out there every day working to make positive changes in our world – and offering teens the opportunity to do the same.  Today I share with you several campaigns that you can share with your teens and help them get involved in being a positive force in the world – and helping them meet the 40 Developmental Assets in their lives.  Remember, more positive assets equals more positive teens.  Our job is to get the information to them, the rest is up to them.

Teenage Depression  * Bullying  *  Dating Violence  *  Human Trafficking  * Being a Guy  *  Being a Girl  * Saving the Earth  * and More . . .

Their mission statement: To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
The message of the It Gets Better Project is simple: everyone deserves to be loved for who they are and it does get better.  They ask everyone to take this pledge: Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other bullied teens by letting them know that it gets better.
The Big Help is an initiative of the Nickelodeon chanel that encourages tweens and teens to get involved in local projects to help their communities.  The audience definitely skews younger tween, but the way it is designed encourages local action, which is great.

Donate My Dress is an initiative sponsored by Seventeen Magazine that encourages teens to donate their special occassion dresses to others in need.  The 2012 spokesperson is Victoria Justice.
Do Something is all about encouraging teens to, well – do something positive for their world.  This is what it says under their Who We Are page: e love teens. They are creative, active, wired…and frustrated that our world is so messed up. DoSomething.org harnesses that awesome energy and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, we launch a new national campaign. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car. With a goal of 5 million active members by 2015, DoSomething.org is one of the largest organizations in the US for teens and social change.

I am a huge advocate of teen volunteers, and many libraries have been using teen volunteers for years in the form of Teen Advisory Groups (TAGs).  But not all libraries have the staffing or funds to successfully incorporate TAGs into their programs.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage teen volunteering by providing teens access to volunteer information.  Volunteen Nation is here to help.  Volunteen Nation encourages organizations to add volunteer opportunities to their programming and they also help teens find volunteer opportunities through their website.
With the explosion of technology comes the explosion of cyberbullying, find information and take the pledge to step in and speak up here.

As part of their ongoing campaign to promote tolerance, Tolerance.org sponsors Mix It Up at Lunch Day in November (this year it is November 13th).  On this day teens are encouraged to sit with new people at lunch.  I have gone to schools on this day with displays and just went and interacted with the teens at lunch.  Most teens like to sit in the same place with the same people, but it can really open up dialogue.
T4PE is a social network by teens, for teens to learn more about conservation efforts and to share information about local projects.
From their about page:
PROJECT GIRL combines art, media literacy, and youth led activism.
PROJECT GIRL is a ground-breaking girl-led, arts-based initiative created to enable girls to become better informed critical consumers of mass media advertising and entertainment. In other words, to become more media literate.
PROJECT GIRL’s unique approach uses art as the means to educate, inspire, and create social change. . The Project Girl gives girls the structure to be the producers of their own culture, not just passive receivers of a culture that is trying to sell them something.
Stay Teen provides information on sex, dating and birth control.
Love is Respect talks about the positive things that love is, and highlights the negative things that it is not – including sexting and abuse. There is some good discussion under the Is This Abuse? tab.
Break the Cycle is also committed to helping to end dating violence and promoting healthy relationships.

International Day of the Girl is a movement…
to speak out against gender bias and advocate for girls’ rights everywhere.
Human Traffikcing is a form of modern day slavery that is bigger than we realize.  Teens on Trafficking gives teens facts and tools to help end it.
This is another resource aimed at ending human trafficking and sex crimes against children.
Here ya author John Green and is Bro join with teens to fight suck using their brains.

I know that there are more, so please share your favorites in the comments.  The more we have, the more likely we are to meet our teens informational needs. Thank you.


  1. This is not a specific organization but lots of professional athletes have foundations that they work with to provide support for kids in their communities. I remember reading that Shaq and his mom arranged to donate his basketball shoes to other boys with huge feet who couldn't afford new shoes. You could maybe write a little blurb about some of these organizations and encourage teens to find some in their area. Or, get their own high school team to start something local.


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