For many young people, smartphones are a part of everyday life. Many of today’s teens don’t remember a world without them. Critics lament the harmful effects of the devices on social skills, mental health, sleep patterns and cite a host of other potential problems. However, smartphones also give young adults the ability to connect with people around the world and make their voices heard on a large scale. Many young people are using that power for good.
You Can Sit With Us
An 11th-grade student, Natalie Hampton, is one of the young entrepreneurs making a difference through a smartphone app.
In seventh grade, Natalie was bullied and ate lunch alone in the cafeteria, feeling shunned by her peers. Eventually, she moved to a new school where she made friends and encountered no problems finding somewhere to sit at lunch. However, she still remembered the pain and embarrassment of eating alone. Natalie wanted to do something to help students who were in the lonely position she once found herself in.
So, she created Sit With Us, a smartphone app designed to help students find somewhere to sit at lunchtime. Through the app, students can coordinate lunch with their friends. They can also sign up to be an ambassador, a student who sends out an open invitation through the app welcoming anyone to sit with them at the lunch table.
Students in need of a seat can see those open invitations and know when they show up at the table, they won’t be turned away. Sit With Us allows students to find a group to eat lunch with without embarrassment or fear of rejection and creates a more welcoming environment. Natalie hopes her app will reduce bullying and says the app has been well received at her school.
An Aptitude for Creating Change
Natalie isn’t the only young person to create an app that aims to do social good. Here are just a few more examples:
- Param Jaggi, currently 21 years old, created Notion, an app for discussing and sharing ideas about controversial social issues in a respectful environment.
- High school students in Philadelphia created Gotcha!, an app that allows users to report crimes.
- Students from Stratford Girls’ Grammar School created I’m Okay, an application that helps students explore and learn about sexuality and gender.
- When he was 13, Arjun Kumar began working on an app called iSafeGuard. The app aims to help keep women and young girls safe by letting friends or guardians see there location and let the user send preset contacts SOS messages that include location information.
The list goes on. Educators caught on to this app-creating trend and launched an educational movement called Apps for Good that teaches students how to create applications to solve a problem and make an impact on the world. The creators of I’m Okay, the app mentioned above, created their project through this program.
Social Media Warriors
You don’t need to develop a mobile app to impact the world with your smartphone. Many young people are using their social media accounts to promote change. A recent survey showed that 70 percent of young people believe social media can lead to change.
Social media is often used to organize protests, bring attention to social justice issues, discuss ideas and advocate for causes. Sometimes, it’s used just to spread some positivity.
Three high school students from Iowa City set out to brighten the days of their classmates and teachers by creating a Twitter account called @WestHighBros. Using the account, they dished out compliments and positive thoughts. Their actions made quite an impact on students at their school.
Social media can also be used to change the outcomes of and bring attention to specific incidences. When Isaak Wolfe, a transgender high school student from Pennsylvania, tried to run for prom king, the school moved him to the prom queen list. Someone shared the story on a Facebook page called Have a Gay Day. After a Change.org petition for Isaak was shared on Reddit, it got almost 5,000 signatures.
Here are some more examples:
- Ziad Ahmed fights for social justice on social media and got to eat dinner at the White House in recognition of his efforts.
- Nicole Maines, a 17-year-old transgender girl, advocates for trans equality on social media. Reporter Amy Ellis wrote a book about her.
- Daniel Alexander uses social media to spread a general message of positivity. He has 145,000 Twitter followers and is also a musician, writer and motivational speaker.
With a smartphone and internet access, young people gain the ability to easily connect with others on a large scale. When they use this technology to create social change, the effects can be far-reaching and impactful. The idea might start at a lonely school lunch table, but once young people use their creativity and smartphone technology to make it a reality, it can change the lives of people around the world.
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