DoSomething.org CEO Nancy Lublin’s TED Talk on a Teen Crisis SMS Hotline

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In a new TED Talk, DoSomething.org CEO Nancy Lublin unveils a world-changing idea: a text crisis hotline for teens. Lublin is working to launch a service where teens can text in their urgent issues and receive immediate help from a counselor.

“I think [a mobile phone] might be a lifeline. I think it might be able to save more lives than penicillin,” Lublin says. She notes that texting is the primary way teenagers communicate.  “The average teenager sends 3,339 text messages a month. Unless she’s a girl and then it’s closer to 4,000. And the secret is she opens every single one. Texting has a 100% open rate.”

The idea for a text crisis line, says Lublin, came out of necessity. As part of their mission to engage youth, DoSomething.org texts teenagers ideas for how they can get involved in their local communities. Often, those teens text back. And sometimes those texts were cries for help. The young people who wrote in were getting bullied at school. They were cutting themselves. One girl even texted that her father was raping her.

In response, Do Something knew they needed to do something. “Think about it,” Lublin says. “A text hotline. It’s pretty powerful. It’s fast. It’s pretty private. Nobody hears you in a stall, you’re texting quietly. It’s real time. We can help millions of teens with counseling and referrals.”

And as Lublin concludes, “the thing that makes this really awesome is the data.” Not only would this be able to provide urgent help for teens in need. By gathering extensive data, it might reveal some of the systemic problems that are at root behind the crises. A text message campaign can track every message sent and received – including what time it comes in, what area it’s coming from, and any other data that the campaign organizers ask for.

“Imagine having real-time data on every one of those issues [that affect teens]. You could inform legislation, you could inform school policy.”

Watch the full video below.

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