This morning I read an article about a young man who emailed CNN commentator, Jack Cafferty, about how he used his mobile phone to donate to Haiti.  As the story goes, this guy raised $50-dollars while playing poker with his buddies and showing them that they could text a donation easier than they could text their girlfriends.

The next piece I read was about a 20-year old University senior who’s using Facebook, text messaging and online micro-donation mechanisms to run for mayor.

These two actions are yet further proof of how socially aware and politically charged our youth today are — despite what critics to the contrary might say.

Among the many factors for this new era of engagement with youth, I believe the exposure to cause & social impact campaigns has helped punctuate the roles Gen Y and Gen Z see themselves (capable of) playing.  Brand partnerships with non-profits invite our kids to care and innovate as social entrepreneurs.

The breaking news today of Haiti’s 6.1 magnitude aftershock — where the death toll is at 70,000 and rising — most of us are well aware that this number may take over 200,000 lives.  While a parent’s first instinct may be to protect their children from such gory details, youth online worlds have taken the other approach and are finding new ways to spark digital engagement.  From iTunes newly enabled Haiti donation feature, to games for good and virtual worlds, it’s impossible for youth not to get involved.  Consider these examples:

GAMING FOR GOOD:

VIRTUAL FOR VIRTUOUS:

  • Hello Kitty Online is donating to Haiti efforts through a “Food For Friends” guild event which invites players to compete for points and purchase items in the mall which are then traded for donation points.  Proceeds benefiting Doctors Without Borders.
  • Gaia Online is matching up to $10,000 in donations to the Red Cross by engaging more than 9-million teens and young adults in site forums and message boards to discuss the tragedy.
  • Xeko is helping Haiti earthquake victims by having them purchase a virtual emergency kit which translates to a real donation made to Mercy Corps.
  • In Second Life, several fundraisers and benefits have been organized
  • KooDooZ challenges invite kids to take on social good goals which ask for both real-world and online verifiable actions.

Earlier today, KooDooZ sister-site, Cause4KDZ.com blogged about innovative “real-world” programs to involve youth as global citizens.  Some highlights include:

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