The voices of young people have impact

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School not only ended 17 lives but also left hearts across the nation heavy and angry. Some students from the high school immediately decided that enough was enough. They stood up to a deadlocked Congress and millions of adults who told them to sit down and shut up. Some went the less subtle route of screaming “we call BS” on live television. Journalism students took the quieter, but equally impactful, approach of writing about those they lost and their ideas on ending school shootings. Their passion and anger has shown the nation that being young doesn’t affect the ability to be heard. The power of the youth to spark change is not to be underestimated.

Often teens are treated like they aren’t capable of making adult decisions. Even after giving young people more legal abilities such as gambling, enlisting in the military, and voting, adults still dismiss their opinions on the premise that they’re inexperienced. Speaking out and causing real change in an adult’s world can seem impossible, but the power of the Parkland kids lies within each young individual with a cause.

One way young people can create change is through voting, which allows them to directly influence what happens in the government— to be a part of the people’s voice. Millenials have become the largest voting demographic. If teenagers want to cause change, they have the numbers to do it. This gives them the ability to hold the most power over the future of the nation if they choose to seize it. But even those not of voting age can still influence their peers. Everyone has the freedom to stand up for what’s important to them. If adults belittle teenagers for being young and inexperienced, teens shouldn’t let that keep them from being passionate about what they believe in.

With age comes valuable experience. But, it’s the nature of the experiences, not the quantity that’s important. Teenagers today have grown up in a much different environment than the generation before. Today, teenagers know how it feels to walk into school wondering if they said goodbye to their mom for the last time. They know an environment where the conversations surrounding gender, sexuality and sexism aren’t as taboo as they once were.

Adults often try to dismiss young people’s opinions that are based on these experiences. Parents can’t seem to grasp the fact that their beliefs often don’t align with their kids’ because they’ve been raised in different worlds. In areas like Flower Mound that are like bubbles, kids seem to be heavily tied to their parents. Teenagers feel that if they don’t think and act exactly how their parents want them to, they’re disrespecting them by “rebelling.” Simply having their own thoughts or forms of self expression doesn’t make young people disrespectful— it makes them their own person.

Contrary to what some teenagers might think, being involved in important issues isn’t always angrily standing outside with a sign during a protest. All that is needed to be politically active is an educated opinion and the ability for students to have rational conversations with their peers. Knowing which politicians they agree with and having an opinion contributes much more to America’s political climate than being entirely passive or blindly following ever could. Attending a protest is meaningless if they don’t understand why they’re there in the first place. Young people shouldn’t always assume that adults will vote or make decisions in their best interest.

Young adults need to join together with their peers and address issues that affect teenagers right now. No matter which side teens are on, they should care. Young people supporting other young people exponentially increases their power. They need to educate themselves so they can intelligently debate with others. People will disagree with them and try to belittle them because of their age, but young people’s opinions are valid. The responsibility of having an educated opinion comes with being young adults in today’s society. Don’t be fooled by the idea that the big issues are only for adults. They are young people’s issues too.