If your news feed is anything like mine, you’ve probably seen a lot of memes lately about the “Tide Pod Challenge.” They all show a variety of nostalgic pictures from the ‘80s or ‘90s of kids doing slightly stupid things and are captioned along the lines of, “Sure, we did _____ when we were teens, but at least we didn’t eat laundry detergent!”
I’ll admit, I’ve laughed at most of them, but the more of them I’ve seen, the more I’ve been left with a growing sense of unease. I couldn’t put my finger on it until a friend shared a news story (shared below) about two boys who rushed to help an elderly woman who had fallen in the bitter cold. After reading it, the problem suddenly came into focus.
If our news feed is any indication of the state of teenagers, we’re going to be in big trouble in a few years. Even Googling “teens in the news” delivers a bevy of terrible stories of drugs, smartphone addictions, burglaries, bullying, and more.
Why aren’t these teenagers given the spotlight more often? Why do we so rarely hear the stories of “teens doing good”?
In an effort to stem the tide of negative news stories, or at least counter them, I’ve compiled a list of teens who are making a positive difference in the world. Read about these inspiring kids and remember that for every teen eating a Tide Pod, there are at least a hundred who are completely amazing.
1. Helping an Elderly Woman in Need
Two boys in Winter Harbor, Maine were taking a walk on a frigid winter day when they heard a cry for help. According to the Ellsworth American, 14-year-old Logan Leighton, and Emmett Moshier, 12, found an elderly woman lying on the ground. She had fallen while walking her dog and was unable to get up due to an injured leg.
The boys knew she needed to get indoors to warm up, so after Emmett called his mother, who called 911, they helped her into her home and waited with her until EMTs arrived.
2. Beauty Pageants With All Kinds of Beauty
Samantha Schubert, 18, began participating in natural beauty pageants when she was nine, but after several years, she noticed something was missing from them. None of the pageants included kids with disabilities.
That’s why, since 2015, Samantha has coordinated the yearly Miss Exceptional Pageant in Puyallup, Washington, a “personality pageant” for girls with special needs. The pageant, says The News Tribune, gives girls with physical or mental disabilities a chance to let their personalities shine on stage while also helping them develop their confidence and communication skills.
3. Rescuing a Woman and Her Dogs from Icy Pond
When her two dogs fell into an icy pond, Aimee McIntyre, a Cary, North Carolina woman, tried to save them, but ended up falling into the water herself. Luckily, a teen named Jack Lawrence drove by and saw what was happening. He turned his car around and managed to save both Aimee and her dogs, according to ABC 11 News.
4. Saving People from an Apartment Fire
The quick thinking of a San Diego, California teen saved multiple lives one November morning last year. Sophia Righthouse was driving with her father when she noticed smoke coming out of an apartment building. She and her dad didn’t hesitate. They ran straight to the building and began knocking on doors, says ABC 10 News, telling residents to evacuate immediately. If it hadn’t been for her quick and calm response, the situation could have ended far more tragically.
5. Protecting Teen Drivers From Themselves
Since the teens of today will be the voters of tomorrow, it’s always nice to hear when they take an interest in governmental processes. Three teens from Miami Valley, Ohio are doing just that.
According to wdtn.com, Naomi Admasu, Emily Frantz, and Julia Presley, all high school juniors, recently traveled to the Ohio Statehouse to support a bill to protect teen drivers. The Young Driver Protection Bill increases the time young drivers must hold a permit from six months to a year and decreases the amount of unsupervised driving time they’re allowed once licensed. It has not yet been voted on.
6. Teaming Up With Police Department for Social Good
Fifteen Elgin, Illinois teens teamed up with local police officers to make hats and scarves for social service agencies in their area. In a story from the Daily Herald, the effort is part of a monthly series of events called Elgin Teen Life, which take place at the Gail Borden Public Library and aims to create connections between teens and officers.
7. Saving a Grandmother’s Life
Teens may be accused of being distant and disinterested in family time, but 18-year-old Will Tankersley proved that wrong while out for lunch with his family.
According to the Statesboro (Georgia) Herald, Will’s grandmother began to choke while eating lunch. His mom yelled for help, but it was Will’s quick thinking that saved the woman’s life. He crawled across the table and performed the Heimlich Maneuver, dislodging the food and saving her life.
8. Helping Syrian Refugees
Two Pensacola, Florida teens spent 10 days in Amman, Jordan working with Syrian refugees as part of a medical mission. Noor Rifai and Ellen Ryan worked in a clinic helping doctors manage the over 4000 patients who came through their doors.
Both teens hope to go back to Jordan in the future, says weartv.com, and they’ve created The Jood Refugee Project to raise money for the crisis.
9. Saving a Life Through CPR
18-year-old Corey Brennan thought it was a normal day at work at Regal Cinemas 19 in Tomball, Texas when a customer stopped breathing. While someone called 911, he began administering CPR and got the man breathing again.
Corey is a junior firefighter and hopes to become an EMT after high school.
10. Food Drive After Power Loss
According to a Facebook post by Sean Faircloth, a group of teens in Bangor, Maine organized an impromptu food drive after bad weather left many homes without power for nearly a week. The teens collected enough to fill a refrigerator and they donated the items to the Bangor Housing Authority to distribute to families who lost perishables during the outage.
I’m sure there are hundreds more stories just like these that don’t make it into our news feeds. So why don’t we start a new challenge to counter the Tide Pod Challenge? The next time you’re tempted to share the latest “teens are idiots” meme, share a story like the ones above instead. Because those are the things that really need to be heard.
Lauren Cormier is a freelance writer, founder of the parenting website ohhonestly.net, and author of The Words Your Kids Need: The Value of Writing to Your Children and How to Do It With Ease. She lives in Maine with her husband and three children.