Teenagers across the country are getting involved in the issues they care about, and your child need be no exception. Are bills the work of high-power lobbyists? Political pundits? How about teenagers?
In Maine, a group of teenagers who form The League of Young Voters pushed through an initiaive that promises to erase up to $32,000 of college debt for every student who stays in the state after graduation. Your child could be next to make a difference.
Here are three ways to launch your child into the world of politics:
Find a Cause:
Ask your teen what issues he's passionate about. Chances are there is something in his community, his nation or the world that has him fired up. It doesn't have to be world peace or funding the cure for cancer. Your teen can start small, as long as it's something which resonates with him. Maybe he's sick of getting busted for skateboarding downtown and wants to see his municipal government invest in a skate park. Instill in him that there is a way to make a difference, it just takes a bit of work. Encourage your teen to:
- Find out everything she possibly can about the issue from all sides. There's no way to argue her position if she doesn't do the research. Following the skate park example, get a copy of the school budget. If she can point out that $3,000 was spent this year on repairing turf for the football field, it can be used later as leverage.
- Find out the right governmental body with which to raise the issue: Is it town council? The planning commission? The mayor's office? Attend a meeting of town officials to present the issue when they open the floor to the public.
- Start a petition. It may be hard-work, but it's also quite literally a hands-on lesson in the democratic process.
If your teen feels strongly about larger issues, such as the Iraq War or global warming, give her a launching pad by introducing her to sites such as the League of Young Voters. One of their features is dedicated to high school students, asking them to sign a "I Will Vote When I Turn 18" pledge card. The League promises to both remind your child to vote when she's 18 and provide her with information so she can be an informed voter. The League definitely swings left of center, with many initiatives protesting the Iraq War and highlighting democratic candidates. For a list of more balanced teen political sites, check out: www.freechild.org.
Encourage Social Politics:
Social networking sites aren't just teen fads—they have the power to bring kids together to share ideas. Encourage your child to assert his right to free assembly by joining one of the many political groups these sites offer. Each group offers information on the key issues, introduces key political players, and gives kids the opportunity to discuss issues in a safe and open forum.
Watch Political Entertainment:
The Daily Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Dennis Miller, or YouTube.com are good bets for teens. Comedy and politics go hand-in-hand. With comedians on both the right and the left poking fun at political issues, there's never a dull moment. Simply showing your teen the fun side of politics may motivate him to stay informed. Take it a step further by watching the show with your child, taking note of these jokes and their context. If she didn't catch that comparison to Watergate, go online or head to the library. Her drive to get the joke will spur her on.
Now's the time to kick-start your teenager's political interests—not only will it boost those social studies scores, but it will give her a life lesson in citizenship. Vive La Revolution!