By Brogan Hennesy
With the 2018 midterm elections just completed, politics has been on everybody’s mind. This was a major election that had lots of action. But by people, I don’t just mean adults. Kids too are constantly talking about politics. Although, I feel kids are shielded from politics, when what parents should be doing is making sure young people are properly informed about politics.
I have a role as a kid in politics, but by not being able to vote and only being thirteen, I have less of a political voice. That makes my role smaller, where I feel kids have a lot of things to say about this topic that doesn’t get heard.
I know some adults don’t like talking about politics with younger people. Kids my age are already in this for the long haul. The thing is, we already have exposure to the things parents are trying to shield us from.Nowadays, word spreads very fast because of technology. Social media, of all things, has politics. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, you name it. I even have a CNN app on my phone. So that means that everyone with a mobile device is exposed to the news – and nowadays, more and more kids have phones….so, there is no escape!
So now that the cat is out of the bag, what’s next? How are adults going to react now? Now, most parents can be very open about certain topics. Like career choices, school grades, the birds and the bees. But when it comes to politics, it gets complicated and many adults tend to sweep it under the carpet, so it never gets talked about.
But since kids have exposure, they are getting this information without a filter, without explanation, without context. “She did this,” “He said that,” “They’re guilty of fraud”. Hearing that with no background of what is going on is bound to confuse kids. Talking about something you don’t fully understand, is dangerous, and it occurs the most when talking about politics.
This shielding continues at school, which I find amusing because we are seen as mature for some things; like being responsible for electronic devices, representing our school in sports and meeting deadlines for assignments. And it seems like my school seems to want us to have some information when it comes to politics; we watch a program called CNN 10, which is a ten-minute news report, for younger people. We watch this once a day and so it brings up topics that lead to questions on our part, but frankly, all we do is watch the program. We don’t tend to have further discussions about what we saw, teachers don’t take questions and so we are left not understanding what we just watched.
So here is the problem. Kids are getting shielded, but that shielding doesn’t really work because we still see politics and political issues everywhere we look. And what’s more, it doesn’t keep us from talking about it among ourselves. Some kids just repeat their parents political view, but don’t understand what those views are or why their parents think that way. Kids are little sponges of knowledge, they hear it from their parents when they talk politics to other adults, they watch it in school, they remember it, and they repeat it and this is causing real problems.
This is so upsetting to me because I have seen friendships end at school because one family is republican and the others are democrats. As a kid, I know that these problems, lack of information, no structural discussions, are greatly impacting my life.
But by being a kid, I know exactly what we want out of this dilemma. I’ve proposed some things to help solve this problem.
As parents, we want you to ignore the fact that we are kids. It is the most exasperating thing to hear that you are “too young to understand,” or that we will be told “when we’re older”. Don’t forget we already have hard discussions with you; discussions about bullying, addiction, and sexual education, which in my mind is way harder to talk about with a group of kids than politics.
I know that kids are ready. We can handle this, and I think we’ve proven to you that we can handle mature topics like this. Young people are affected by politics, we are impacted by what goes on in politics . Making an effort to change this is the best thing everyone can do to fix this.
So parents and teachers, consider ways to include kids in the discussion – maybe they will all learn a little more about how to talk to each other about politics; and if you are a kid like me that feels this way too, talk about it! Share your views, make it visible that kids belong in the conversation, that we can handle it, that we WANT to handle it. I think that if you really try to see the maturity in the kids around you, they just might surprise you.