While many people believe that kids these days are lazy and self-obsessed, there is reason to believe that they are becoming increasingly empathetic and altruistic. Although a culture of violence — in video games, television and film — pervades the lives of youth, there are many who thoughtfully resist this culture and place value on co-operation rather than competition, and compassion rather than cruelty.

According to POINT (People and Organizations in North Toronto), youth had the highest rate of volunteering of any demographic in 2007, and 93 per cent of volunteers aged 15 and older cited giving back to the community as an important reason to volunteer.

Educational institutions are a central pillar in fostering volunteerism among youth. According to an infographic by Open Colleges, 86.2 per cent of students obligated to participate in community service participated beyond the mandatory requirement. Student volunteer rates are highest in New Zealand, Canada and China.

The infographic indicates that the average rate of volunteering for university students with service learning in high school is over 77 per cent, as compared to 65 per cent without service learning, suggesting that education helps promote long-term volunteerism. According to Statistics Canada, the top one quarter of donors (21 per cent of Canadians) have high levels of formal education.

Indeed, it appears that compassion can be taught, which means that today's educational institutions carry greater social responsibility than ever.

Are you surprised by these numbers? Let us know in the comments below and check out the infographic below:

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  • Donate toys

    Regularly go through their toys together for items they have outgrown or no longer love. Set aside the gently used ones (it's insulting to donate broken and battered things) and bring your children with you to deliver to the collection point.

  • Hold donation birthday parties

    Ask guests to bring something simple for charity -- a book or small stuffed animal for instance -- rather than a gift for your child. Go as a family to a shelter, hospital or other place where these gifts will cheer up other children.

  • Small gestures

    When you bake, make extras for an elderly neighbor. Shovel the driveway of the family next door with a new baby, or mow their lawn. Send cards and cookies to the troops. Draw pictures for the residents of the nearby retirement home.

  • Be kind to animals

    Buy pet food and treats and bring your children with you when you deliver to the local shelter.

  • Feed real people who are hungry

    Go as a family to the local food bank. They can not only watch where their canned donations go, but they can sweep and stack and meet the people who are served by their contributions. Or bring your kids along on a midnight run to deliver sandwiches to the homeless.

  • Divide their allowance into "Spend" "Save" and "Give Away."

    Then, periodically, decide how to give it away together.

  • Give blood

    They can't do this. But they can come along and wait while you do. They will like the cookies.