Activation gap’ among youth seen

Most young Americans say they are interested in becoming involved in social causes, but relatively few take the steps to do so, a new study says.

“Just Cause,” commissioned by MTV and conducted by U30 Group, analyzes the perceptions and actions of people ages 12 to 24 on social causes and their involvement in them.

Seven in 10 youth say it is important to help their communities, and more than eight in 10 say they are somewhat involved currently, the study says, but fewer than one in three actually volunteers on a weekly basis.

And while almost four in 10 say they are very interested in volunteering, fewer than half that number say they are very involved, creating what the study calls an “activation gap.”

With the spread of the Internet, youth have begun to broaden their definition of community, which now tends to be built around common interests, rather than family or locality, the study says.

But more than six in 10 say they care most about issues that touch them or a friend personally, and seven in 10 say their parents are the greatest influence in their volunteer activities.

To close the “activation gap,” the study says youth need guidance, encouragement and flexibility.

More than one in three youth say they don’t volunteer because of a lack of encouragement, while more than half cite busy schedules, the study says.

And given that the average starting age of highly-involved young volunteers is 12, the report suggests encouraging youth to start volunteering early.

Youth say the opportunity to volunteer with friends, having more and better ways of finding out about volunteer activities, and that having more time or more convenient activities are the best ways to encourage their involvement.

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