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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Riots, Youth and Technology

In January, we all read about the revolution that took place in Egypt, when young people connected on Facebook, then gathered in Tehrer Square and demanded their president step down. Egyptians now call it the Youth Revolution. It worked.

This week the unrest was in the U.K. You may have heard about the riots that were sparked by young people in the U.K. Several buildings in Tottingham were torched, then filmed and broadcast by gang members on the spot. The disorder was captured second-by-second on Twitter with rioters so caught up in the frenzy they thought nothing of posting incriminating photos of themselves stealing from ransacked shops. Hmm. This is where technology can work for you and against you.

Gang members used Blackberry smart-phones designed as a communications tool for aggressive leaders to organize the mayhem. The Blackberry phone, one of the first devices to offer mobile email, was once the domain of business leaders and political aides but has become increasingly popular with members of urban gangs and teens. This is largely due to the Blackberry Messenger service – known popularly as BBM – which allows owners of the devices to communicate with each other for free and almost instantaneously. Conversations can be held between multiple people simultaneously in ‘group chat’ sessions.

I have said it before—let me say it again. We are now seeing the tip of the iceberg. These kinds of riots and revolutions will increase as young adults find each other on Facebook or other social media outlets, then realize t heir numbers are large enough to spark something in reality or on location. The difference between youth unrest today as opposed to thirty or forty years ago with the Baby Boomers or Xers is this:

  • Youth can band together on-line.
  • Youth causes can gel quickly and easily.
  • Youth can articulate a cause before taking any risks.
  • Youth can build momentum with numbers before taking any steps.


Generation iY is very aware of their influence. They realize that thousands can collaborate and make something happen rapidly. They understand the power of social media and passion. So what are you offering them that is redemptive for our culture? What are you giving students to do that improves our world or your campus? How are you harnessing their influence for good?

It’s time we unite the skills and gifts of young people and do something constructive for them and for the world.  What is it you are doing?



  1. Josh on August 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    We’ve found that this generation is seeking adventure, significants, and the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than they are.  If we provide it, they’ll give their guts out for the cause. 

    We took students to North Carolina this past July to rebuild roofs, do some plumbing, and help out the community in whatever way possible.  We’ve been doing this trip for years now and it’s built such a following that we open registration in January, it sells out within a month, and we have a waitlist 20 deep.  Students.  Paying.  To work.  There is no other single thing our youth group does that has this kind of following. 

    Along the same lines we gave students a chance to go to inland Jamaica to work with a church on construction and a vacation Bible school.  The students had to raise $1350 each to participate.  Not only did all 26 students raise the funds, but they put together the program, planned team meetings via a facebook group, and basically took on the entire trip!  It was truly breathtaking to watch students rally around selflessness and the cause of Christ. 

    • Tim Elmore on August 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      Thanks for sharing a great example of what students are capable of if we just offer them meaningful alternatives! Incredible!

  2. Trent Thomas on August 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Great article!  Very eye opening.  At this point, I am trying to inspire teens to “add value” to the world by learning the simple, but profound exercise of writing down their goals through my program, 5fprep.  I am also using your material (Habitudes) in a mentoring class at school with the idea that we are going to change the culture of our school from laziness to leadership-starting with self-leadership!

    • Tim Elmore on August 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      That’s great! Sounds like you are on the right track – putting practical tools/exercises in the hands of your students.

  3. Jackie on August 11, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Thank you for your influence on this powerful source!  I believe also in the next generation.  Warning, they need a bit of aged wisdom to trust and bounce ideas off.  Generational crossover empowers exponentially.
    I work in a very influential upper class retirement community.  Watching and training youth to serve these older ones is a treat.  I see a future where the generations will cross over to be better together, not separate.    
    As I speculate on the future, and wonder what this iY generation will be like as retirees I smile at the potential and creativity.  Hope we don’t have to wait too long to see the blending and gleaning.

    • Tim Elmore on August 11, 2011 at 11:14 am

      Great point – I love seeing the generations work together! Part of our work is to equip the older generation to engage and lead the next generation.

      Also, it is fun to think about what iY will be like as retirees! Hopefully we will have prepared them well!

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Riots, Youth and Technology