Teenagers & Social Responsibility

Teens are sometimes stereotyped as being self-centered or unmotivated. Regardless of whether the cliché applies to your teen, learning about social responsibility can have an empowering effect. Teenagers are social creatures, and yours might welcome additional opportunities to engage with others in activities related to social responsibility. For teens who do struggle to connect in their communities, social responsibility provides an authentic backdrop for learning about the needs of others 2.

Community Service

Parents and schools have long relied on community service to help teens learn about social responsibility 2. Service opportunities include one time or periodic efforts to contribute to the community. Teens might participate in a car wash to raise funds for the school basketball team, bake goods for a church bake sale or volunteer at a blood bank. Some schools and enrichment programs contain community service requirements in the hopes of mandating engagement in social responsibility.

Service Learning

Community service can be fun and expose teens to people and causes they otherwise wouldn’t have encountered. Increasingly, though, schools are turning to service learning projects as a way to facilitate more meaningful social responsibility encounters for teens 2. Service learning projects tend to be student-initiated, involve research into the community to determine need and take place over extended periods of time. For example, teens could interview homeless individuals and shelter volunteers in the city’s downtown district to determine their current needs. After researching supply costs, they might decide to fund raise enough money to purchase blankets and hire an additional part-time case manager during the winter months.


Learning to become socially responsible can empower teens to realize actual change in their communities. Reflecting on the challenges of others can help contextualize their own struggles and teach valuable lessons about compassion. From a practical standpoint, it helps teens develop leadership skills, enhance their resumes and college application viability, learn job skills and become active citizens.They also may make new friends and adult contacts in the community. As teens grow more confident about their own roles in the community, this could contribute to increased self-acceptance and security.

Getting Started

Your teen doesn't have to immediately build a house for a needy family or travel to a distant country to learn about social responsibility. You can start small by discussing what interests your teen. Tapping into a teenager’s genuine interests will help keep the experience positive. Politically inclined teens might join an advocacy group, while nurturing adolescents could prefer volunteering in a hospital or animal shelter. You can set a positive example through socially responsibility yourself by purchasing local produce, logging pro bono hours or volunteering in the community. To keep experiences positive, try to avoid mandatory community service for your teen. This tends to be less meaningful, and your teenager misses the opportunity to become socially responsible in a genuine way.