Editorial: Teen voices are vital in politics

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Tara Connick

“Now, as teenagers, we are more aware of how these issues affect our future and understand that we have to become the voices for lasting change for what adults did not fix.”

Teenagers have had to face the consequences of adult politics our whole lives. We were born into the political aftermath of 9/11 with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have practiced active shooter drills ever since kindergarten and watched the devastation at Sandy Hook and Parkland on the news, wondering if that could have been us. We have heard debates about pro life versus pro choice. We have watched as forest fires and hurricanes tore up land.

Now, as teenagers, we are more aware of how these issues affect our future and understand that we have to become the voices for lasting change for what adults did not fix. We are the generation that will face the consequences of their actions. As a result, many of us have become more involved in political and social justice movements.

However, many adults react negatively when teenagers get involved in politics, claiming that we are too young to form our own opinions. They create a hostile environment when we try to speak up and would rather we follow what they say. The older generations need to instead encourage teenagers to educate themselves about politics and fight for the changes they want to see in the future.

As a generation, we’ve proven ourselves to be capable of causing changes in the government. The teens at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting came out fighting for the political changes they believe in. Emma Gonzalez advocated for gun control in Congress. On the other side, Kyle Kashuv made a name for himself as a pro-gun advocate.

We are old enough to decide what we believe, and we can evaluate our parents’ ideas and choose to stand by them or we can form our own. We can gain strength in politics if we are doing our research and developing our own opinions instead of just following what the adults in our lives think without question.

We all have a say in how our future plays out. We must be the ones to shape it.”

Another reason teenagers are capable of speaking out is due to social media. It has played a huge role in how young people express their political opinions. We can voice our perspectives and connect with politicians. We grew up in the age of information, with other kids being a click away. Some even mobilized over TikTok this past summer, buying tickets to a Trump rally they never planned on attending. Right-leaning teens can reach each other through TikTok’s Conservative Hype House. Teenagers on both sides started petitions for causes they believe in and spread them throughout social media, gathering thousands of signatures.

On Twitter, people tell stories of their friends and family who died of coronavirus and Black families share stories of their loved ones who died at the hands of police. Through this platform, these lost lives were humanized, rather than just being numbers on a screen. Social media has given us power to create change that no other generation has had before. It would be wasteful if we did not use it to our advantage.

We can understand why many adults might be against teenagers becoming involved in politics since many of us cannot vote. However, the majority of us will be able to by 2022. Now is the best time for us to be forming political opinions and educating ourselves instead of being uninformed of issues by the time we reach the ballot box. The most dangerous situation for our country would be a large demographic of unaware voters.

We must realize how consequential this election is for our futures. Adults should give us an equal voice in political discussion. We have ideas and important perspectives that should be amplified, not silenced. Even if many of us are under the voting age, that does not prevent us from making our voices heard. We all have a say in how our future plays out. We must be the ones to shape it.