The Conscientious Teen’s Guide to Using the Internet for Good

This post is a series of blogs contributed by SMW NYC media partner Differences Magazine. To learn more about Differences Magazine and to see the original post by Jessica Bender, please click here

There’s no doubt about it; the typical American teenager is obsessed with the Internet. According to a 2011 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of teenagers ages 12 to 17 (a whopping 95 percent) are now online. Most teens are addicted to watching epic feats of kitten talents on YouTube or reading up on old-school Nickelodeon cartoons on Wikipedia, but a lot don’t know that they can use their Internet skills to do good.

With the exponential growth of teenage social responsibility and activism over the past few years, the apathetic teen is slowly becoming extinct. Heck, you even have a better shot of getting into the college of your dreams if you even volunteer (according to a survey conducted by teen-centric non-profit DoSomething.org)! Want to get in on the do-gooder action? We know the best places for you to get inspired and get started on your quest to become a young social activist.

If you’re attached to your cell phone…you can get inspiration on ways to volunteer to your mobile! DoSomething.org sends out weekly volunteering ideas once a week to over 35,000 teens, so you have the power to make a difference right in your text inbox! Sign up by texting “DoSomething” to 30644 or registering your cell number here.

For the YouTube addicts…make your voice heard with your webcam. When it comes to important social issues, an audience will always exist. While you’re recording, make sure to keep it short, simple, and fun! Check out crowd-source initiatives like the It Gets Better Project and We Stop Hate to get you started on your quest to become a socially responsibly YouTube sensation.

It’s okay if you overshare on your social networks…if you’re sharing the right content. Instead of updating your statuses with tales of unrequited love, try to share stories and content on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn about issues you truly care about. Your followers will thank you for the breath of fresh air on their feeds.

Glued to your Tumblr dashboard? There’s tons of non-profits and charities that post and reblog mega-cool content revolving around social good and making a difference. Their inspiration and feel-good posts will also probably make your heart grow a few sizes bigger, so it’s probably a good idea to follow what they’re doing. Some of my fave non-profits that are invading Tumblr include The Trevor Project, To Write Love on Her Arms, She’s the First, and UNICEF.

Can’t stop Tweeting? Use your Twitter account as a platform to promote issues and causes you’re passionate about in 140 characters or less. Three things to keep in mind while being a thoughtful Tweetheart:

1. Hashtag keywords when Tweeting so your Tweets show up easier in searches.

2. When Tweeting an article you want to share, make sure to refer back to the source’s Twitter handle. They’ll appreciate you taking notice of their content and might follow you back as a result.

3. Don’t Tweet or retweet too much – that’ll drive your followers absolutely crazy.

That being said, there’s a plethora of organizations and social good sites just aching for more followers. Mashable and GOOD have lists of organizations for you to follow and worship.