Breaking down the social causes that matter to kids

Where do bullying, climate change and gun control fall in the hierarchy of what kids care about? MarketCast Kids shines a light on social responsibility.
February 13, 2020

By Jordana Gilman and Sarah Chumsky

Given Millennials’ commitment to social causes, companies today feel an increasing pressure to take a stand on social causes and give back. Being active in social causes is quickly moving from optional to necessary, as adults worldwide put their money where their hearts are. But are kids making these same demands of the companies they buy from or support? How plugged in are they to social causes, and how knowledgeable are they of corporate responsibility initiatives? Of course, there are many well-publicized instances of kids taking action, but what are the attitudes and behaviors of the average tween and teen?

To answer these questions and more, MarketCast Kids (formerly Insight Kids), recently conducted a study among 2,008 kids ages eight to 14 and their parents across the US, Brazil, Germany, and South Korea. The results solidified some hunches about kids and also debunked others.

Are kids thinking personally or publicly?

Developmentally, kids need to think about themselves to develop a sense of self—that’s part of the work of growing up. As such, many kids prioritize personal needs and desires over public ones. When asked an open-ended question about what they’d do with a magic wand, kids wished for plenty of things for themselves or their family. Requests range from the fantastical (Unicorns!) to the indulgent (No homework. Becoming a YouTube star.), and even the thoughtful (“I would make mom better, so she could work and do stuff with us again.”).

However, even more kids wish for things to make the world a better place. The range of answers to the “magic wand” question include a number of social causes, such as world peace and feeding the hungry—quite generous requests.

Check out this word cloud, derived from kids’ open-ended “magic wand” wishes. The larger the word in the word cloud, the more times it was mentioned by kids.


When choosing from a closed-ended list of 20 social causes, categories that rise to the top are anti-bullying (with 56% of kids saying they care), followed by animal rights/protection (51%), world peace (46%), providing for the poor/hungry (45%), climate change/saving the environment (43%) and quality education for kids (42%). With the exception of bullying, which most feel affects them personally, kids are much less likely to say the other causes on the list affect them personally. Yet they still care. Today’s kids are generous.

Do kids key into what companies are doing?

While kids (and parents) have a hard time naming companies that they feel are making a difference, they are committed to supporting companies that do. They are also pretty demanding, saying things like, “If you make the world a bad place, I don’t want to give you money. If you make it a good place, I do want to give you money.” Eighty-six percent of kids prefer to buy from a brand that aligns with their values, and 75% of kids say they wouldn’t want to buy from a company that stayed silent on issues that are important to them.

What do kids need from us?

First off, they need a commitment—93% of kids agree companies have a responsibility to do good. Kids want companies to directly support causes with money, time, and publicity.

Additionally, kids want companies to help them take action. Kids believe they can make a difference—only 13% don’t feel that kids can create change, and 93%of kids want to get more involved in one or more of the causes they believe in. But they don’t know where to start, and they do need help. Kids communicate a clear priority list of what companies can do to support youth social activism. Here are the top five:

  • Make products they can use to help make a difference
  • Give them a free space to meet and organize
  • Publicize events that kids and teens are running
  • Organize after-school clubs or online groups to connect them with others who care about their cause
  • Run events or fairs

By working together, kids and adults can begin to make a meaningful impact and create a better future.

MarketCast Kids (formerly Insight Kids) is a team of business strategists and developmental experts who spend their waking hours pondering and communicating timeless truths and timely trends relating to youth and families.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

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