9 of the most inspiring TED talks, all by kids under 18

How many amazing TED talks have you watched? There are plenty floating around the web, and some of them are pretty spectacular. But when it comes to impressive, these kids have all made a splash by presenting their very own TED talks.

Ready to feel old for some inspiration?

Since her writing career started at the age of seven, Adora Svitak has been a writer, speaker, activist and teacher. In her TED talk, “What adults can learn from kids,” Svitak spoke eloquently about the mutual respect and learning between adults and children that she believes will lead to a better society.

If you’ve been meaning to see Food, Inc., watch Birke Baehr‘s TED talk instead. At just 11 years old, Baehr gave a succinct run-down of what’s wrong with the American food system and how adults can support their children to make healthy food choices.

If tech-related inspiration is more your thing, check out this talk by 12-year-old app developer, Thomas Suarez. At the time of this TED talk, Suarez had developed two apps and set up an app club at his school to encourage other kids to learn about mobile app development. How’s that for impressive?

Don’t be fooled by the adult in this video – Ryan Henson Creighton isn’t the only presenter in this TED talk. He and his daughter Cassandra gave a talk about the game they built together, Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure. At just five years old, Cassandra has made an impressive impact with her video game design. Ryan explained the technical side that brought Cassandra’s design together with the game’s functionality, before he shared his personal philosophy on teaching children to use technology:

“Our goal should be to help kids become creators, not just consumers.”

And the problem with our current approach:

“We shouldn’t mistake participation in the interactive world with mastery over it.”

If you think your kids are smart because they can use an iPad, you need to see this one.

Concert violinist Sirena Huang gave this incredible presentation at just 11 years old, which includes memorable performances on her violin. Huang also spoke about her love for music, and how playing the violin relates to technology, entertainment and design.

If you’re keen to hear Huang’s insights, skip to 8:49 for the beginning of her talk.

17-year-old Scientist Taylor Wilson gives a short talk in this video on the nuclear fusion reactor that he built when he was 14. Though it’s a brief talk, seeing how great an accomplishment Wilson made and how he managed it is truly inspiring.

At 14, concert pianist and composer Jennifer Lin presented this great TED talk on music, composing and her creative process. Jump to 13:20 for the start of her talk, and make sure you stick around for the incredible improvised piece Lin finishes on (it begins at 16:37).

Jonathan Schenker presents this insightful talk on video games, arguing for the inclusion of games in school curricula. Schenker makes some fantastic points throughout, including this one in defense of video games:

“As for violence–one upside is: when it comes to teaching history and current events, we are well equipped to simulate the bloody nature of battles and wars we seem unable to live without. Maybe some animated realism will influence future leaders where centuries of textbooks have failed.”

And this on the educational merits of some games:

“With these new games, learning becomes fun. Even addicting. And addiction to education is not a bad thing.”

Finally, my favorite from Schenker’s presentation:

“This is not science fiction. The tools are here today.”

Finally, 17-year-old cancer survivor Gabe Dunsmith gave this talk about the serious impact of environmental neglect in his community. Dunsmith offered a calm, mature explanation of the dire situation in South Asheville and how it led to not only his own illness, but that of many of his neighbors and family members as well. He wasn’t without hope though, as evidenced in this simple quote:

“One day, people will make the right decisions.”

The ideas these kids have brought to light are fascinating and inspiring, but the courage and articulation they show in these presentations is almost more so.

Have another great TED talk to share? Let us know in the comments.