Teenagers need to pay more attention to politics

We are the future and we need to be informed

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Teenagers need to pay more attention to politics

Grace McLeod, JAG student life editor

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The year was 2016. November 2016, to be precise. It was the day after the presidential election. As I walked through the halls of Monticello Trails Middle School, I noticed that some of my peers had a skip in their step, wearing Trump 2016 t-shirts. On the other hand, a small handful of my peers were walking sullenly, clearly drained from the events of the night before. As for me, like most of my classmates, I could not have cared less about who won the election. Then, my freshman year I enrolled in debate, and everything changed. Suddenly, I was thrown into the world of presidents, policies, immigration, education and every other obscure factor in politics.   As I learned more and more about our political climate, I realized I was in the minority of kids who love all things politics. And while it is OK to not be in love with current events, teenagers still need to pay more attention to what is happening in our country. Although the problem is improving, teenagers still do not spend enough time monitoring what is happening in D.C., even though it is incredibly important.

To start, a shockingly few number of teenagers have any interest in politics. According to a study conducted by Harvard University, 60% of teenagers pay no or casual attention to the news on a daily basis. In addition, according to Gallup News, 70% of teenagers have the same political beliefs as their parents. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with teens agreeing politically with their parents. However, it becomes a problem when teenagers blindly accept everything their parents say, and do no outside research of their own. Parents are great to talk to, but they don’t know everything, and if teens only get their political beliefs from their parents, they will most likely get a very one-sided view of the world.

You may be wondering why it even matters if teenagers follow politics. However, while teenagers may not be able to vote now, it’s only a matter of a few years before we have a chance to sway the election. According to a study conducted by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, only 50% of millennials showed up to the polls in the 2016 presidential election. Millennials and Generation Z are the most diverse population in this country’s history. In the interest of democracy, our country needs more teenagers to become informed, active voters.

The good news is that more and more teenagers are becoming more informed and fighting for what they believe in. According to the Pew Research Center, social media has become an increasingly popular way to stay informed. While it is sad that print and local news is dying out, it is important that as a general population we can monitor what is happening in D.C. In addition, more teenagers are voicing their beliefs even internationally. For example, 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden has been holding climate protests that teenagers have participated in all over the globe. While she may not be old enough to vote, she is still the face of action against climate change internationally. Back in the U.S., after surviving the 2018 Parkland shooting, Emma González became the face of March for our Lives, a movement that advocated for stricter gun laws in the United States.

While we are improving, it is absolutely vital to maintain democracy that teenagers become informed and active in politics. While we may seem young, in only a few decades, we will be running the country. I believe that through social media our generation already is one step ahead, and we have constant access to all of the news we could ever need. We just need to read it. The future is ours, and we need to be prepared to take it.

 

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