Young change agents leveraging social media

By Anne Collier

I hope parents and educators have seen these two clear signs of how kids are using social media to “be the change.” There’s 14-year-old Julia Bluhm in Maine who noticed that friends in ballet class were always criticizing their bodies and spearheaded a protest in front of Seventeen magazine’s New York headquarters and got 80,000+ people around the world to sign her online petition at to get magazines to stop digitally altering models so that they appeared in photos “impossibly thin with perfect skin,” an MSNBC blog reports.

“Girls want to be accepted, appreciated, and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to ‘fix’ themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self esteem,” Julia wrote at Although the magazine said it had “never been guilty of the extreme airbrushing that takes place in some other fashion magazines and advertising spreads,” it will publish a “Body Peace Treaty” in the August issue pledging, among other things “‘always [to] feature real girls and models who are healthy’ and ‘be totally up-front’ by posting pics from their photo shoots on their Tumblr,” MSNBC added. Don’t miss Amy Jussel’s in-depth post over at about Julia’s social action work.

And there were Mr. Wells’s 4th-graders in Brookline, Mass., who launched a campaign against Universal Studios. They found a glaring omission in the Web site about the studio’s film The Lorax: none of the environmental messaging that was in Dr. Seuss’s book of that name: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.” So they too started a petition at and got more than 57,000 signatures, ABC News reported. You’ll probably love the class video about it, as I did – complete with really cute outtakes at the end. It’s posted at The Examiner. “An executive at Universal Studios told Mr. Wells that development was already in the works, and that his class accelerated their plans,” The Examiner later reported. It’s exciting to see adults supporting and responding to what children seem to understand: how new media allow anybody to participate and make a difference now on a global stage (see also “U13s on social sites: Who’ll get the equation right?”). This is real-world civic engagement enabled by social media.

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