How to Be an Activist as a Teenager


Two teenaged girls sitting outside looking at a laptop together.

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This content is for Parents and Adults. This website is not intended for use by children under the age of 18.

Teenagers are one of the largest demographics who get involved in social justice and social activism. Between their flair for idealism and their drive to make a difference in the world, teenagers can be one of the strongest driving forces in helping to change our world for a better future.

Being an activist as a teenager can involve many things, including:

  • Being self-aware and educating others
  • Attending demonstrations and rallies
  • Getting involved politically, raising money
  • Performing community service

Activism is one of the most important things that a teenager can engage in that can make their world (and future) a better place to live. Greta Thunsberg is proof of this idea– she’s one of the most famous teenage activists in the world, known for her environmental advocacy work.  Keep reading to learn more about how teenagers can be activists. 

Teenagers Can Work to Educate Others and Themselves

Sometimes, just being a teenager makes it hard to be taken seriously. So, one of the best things a teenager can do is become knowledgeable about the causes they believe in. And with the help of the internet, this isn’t hard to do. Teenagers are often already privy to the latest news and information regarding social issues through social media and also through school discussions, either lead by teachers or casually with classmates and friends.

But there’s also a ton of misinformation muddled in with facts, which can make it harder for teenagers to get accurate information about issues. The key is to educate themselves using reliable sources and multiple sources when possible. And attempt to gain deeper understanding by finding and becoming familiar with different perspectives, underlying causes and related issues to the causes they care about. Becoming as knowledgeable as they can about their cause will help them gain credibility and assess the best advocacy methods to spread the word and educate others.

Along with educating others, teenagers should also be self-aware about their prejudices or lacking knowledge and strive every day to acknowledge and address their own biases to become a better activist. It is difficult to confront your own biases and to confront the biases of others. However, knowing where your blind spots are is an important part of understanding yourself and other people so that you can be of better service to your cause. (Source: ADL)

Two teenaged girls outside with laptops and smiling at each other.

Teenagers Can Attend Rallies, Protest Demonstrations, and Vigils

As an activist, an important part of being active is just showing up. There are lots of different activities and events a teenager can attend, with their parents or appropriate supervision, to show up for the causes they believe in. Here are some examples:

  • Rallies: A rally is when a group of people show up to support a cause or to protest an issue. Rallies often have speakers scheduled to talk to the supporters about the cause. For example, political rallies are typically held for politicians to help show support for their candidacy and the causes they promote, or to help bolster their influence in the community. Whereas protest rallies are typically held to demonstrate disapproval of unjust laws, policies or practices and can also help bring visibility to social issues.
  • Demonstrations: The terms demonstration, rally and protest are often used interchangeably. But in general, demonstrations are different from rallies because they involve specific coordinated actions by a mass group of people to support a cause or protest an issue. Examples of actions at demonstrations include sit-ins, blockades, picketing and marching. For instance, a rally might instruct participants to meet at a specific location to hear a group of speakers at that location. Whereas a demonstration might instruct participants to meet at a specific location and march to another location. Or meet at a specific location and then sit down at that location in silence while wearing expressive clothing to support your cause. Sometimes, demonstrations will end with a rally.
  • Vigils: The definition of vigil is, “a period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep.” Thus, vigils are usually held in the evenings or at night with candles and flashlights. Vigils are typically held when someone has died due to unnecessary violence. Vigils can help show respect to victims of injustice. They also bring awareness to the injustices surrounding their death, spurring legislators and other people in power to act on their behalf. 

These advocacy events frequently have counter-protestors and law enforcement officers. So, it’s important to stay calm and compassionate, even towards people you disagree with. Also consider other roles teenagers can play in these events, such as providing food, water, first aid kits and other supplies (umbrellas, ponchos, fans and hats for various weather conditions, etc.). Fundraisers to help pay for event supplies can also help promote and support social justice activities.

Teenagers Can Fight for Socially Just Legislation

While politicians might not be inclined to take the opinion of teenagers seriously until they become a voting constituent, teenage activists have shown that they too can have tenacity and determination that’s hard to ignore.

Below are some ways that teenagers can engage politics to help enact social justice. (Source: Advocates for Youth): 

  • Advocate for legislation. You don’t need to be an adult to write letters to politicians, call your representatives on the telephone to appeal to them personally, or even write and prepare your own legislation based on social justice issues that you think need to be addressed.
  • Run for office. That’s right. In most places in America, you only have to be 18 years old to hold office either in a city council or as the mayor of your town. You’ll have to wait until the age of 25 to go after a seat in the House of Representatives. But if you’re politically driven, starting when you’re a teenager can give you a great head start. (Source: Teens in Politics)
  • Increase voter awareness of important social justice issues. Even if a teenager is not old enough to vote themselves, they can help educate people about candidates, where candidates stand on various social issues and whether they support the causes your teenager cares about most.
  • Use social media platform and creativity. Enacting change starts at home, and we already influence people in our immediate circles through our social media platforms and—if we’re a creative—through our art or music. These mediums are a powerful way to influence change. 

As you can see, even if you’re not old enough to vote there are many ways teenagers can help impact legislation, both in their own communities and across the nation. 

Teenagers Can Engage Companies and Corporations for Social Justice

Teenagers are an impactful consumer demographic which makes many corporations and businesses obligated to learn and understand the needs of these young customers. Teenagers and young adults are among the most coveted demographics to target advertising campaigns and other corporate efforts. Because of this, corporations can be a great focus for teenage social activists.

Teenage activists can use their consumer power to call out corporate wrongdoing in the public sphere and demand changes in business practices to more socially just and inclusive options. Teenage activists can also seek to work with businesses to help bring awareness to issues, support causes and sponsor advocacy events.

Teenagers Can Participate in Community Service and Mentorship

Pushing for more socially just legislation or nudging powerful public figures and corporations into action are great methods for activism. But there are other low-key methods too. Teenagers can also take on personal responsibility for making the world a better place by, well, actively making it a better place. 

Here are a few ways teenagers can help engage in community service (Source: Teen Life): 

  • Speak up for those without voices. There are many people who don’t have the power to speak up for themselves. Speaking up because we can and in situations where others can’t, is one of the most powerful forms of advocacy. Teenagers could be the voice for a student being bullied at school, a friend being mistreated while shopping at the mall, or perhaps an animal being neglected. Anyone of any age can speak up against bias, abuse and injustice.
  • Become a mentor for younger people. Older teenagers can engage younger kids in positive ways. They can help give the next generation a head-start when it comes to being self-aware, compassionate, driven, and socially engaged.
  • Look to the environment as well as people. Young people will inherit the earth that older generations leave behind. With the burgeoning threat of massive climate change that is driving wildfires and other ecological disasters across the globe, it is more important than ever for teenagers to step up and acknowledge the threats that face our world going into the future. 

Being a teenage activist doesn’t just mean speaking up to those in power. It can also mean looking around to those who are less powerful than themselves in an attempt to help them experience a world that is more equitable, fair and just.

A group of four teenagers, all of different races and genders, sitting on a bench and having a conversation in a hallway.

Teenage Activism Is Hope for the Future

Teenagers are some of the most powerful activists in the world, and collectively they have enacted great change over the past several centuries. As the world’s population grows and demographics change and environments evolve, it is more vital than ever that young people stand up to challenge potential problematic status quos set forward by their elders in communities across the globe. 

PLEASE NOTE: This content is for Parents and Adults. This website is not intended for use by children under the age of 18.

Author

  • I'm dedicated to helping others and using my skill set to help advance the causes I believe in. I enjoy writing articles to encourage others to do the same through advocacy and volunteering.

Shenetta Webster

I'm dedicated to helping others and using my skill set to help advance the causes I believe in. I enjoy writing articles to encourage others to do the same through advocacy and volunteering.

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