Saturday, February 13, 2010

I feel that young people are not always listened to – especially on issues that affect them directly.

Last week I was invited to take part in the mock general election at Wolfreton School and Sixth Form College as part of their democracy day. Along with representatives from the Labour Party, Green Party and the Lib Dems we were asked to talk for a few minutes on Young People and Democracy. The following is the short presentation I gave:

Young People and Democracy

I feel that young people are not always listened to – especially on issues that affect them directly.

Today’s young people are the decision makers of tomorrow. We must stimulate your interest in democracy, enable your voices to be heard and for you to have a stake in the political process.
It is a myth that young people are not interested in politics.

I know from talking to many young people that you are passionately interested in issues as diverse as crime, anti-social behaviour and bullying, alcohol and drugs, sexual health and teenage pregnancy, youth activities and sport, and reducing the voting age to 16.

But it up to us adults to listen to you, we have to have to make formal politics more relevant and somewhat less boring – and we need to capitalise on the interest shown today. All organisations need to listen more to young people and should be encouraged to ‘youth proof’ their activities wherever possible.

We need to look at how the political parties, Government and Local Councils communicate with young people – How many of you use Facebook?

We need to maximise the use of Facebook but also Twitter, Bebo, My Space and blogs.

We need to improve the opportunities for young people to get involved in politics at a local level, through your school council, through the East Riding Youth Assembly and through emerging community youth councils.

Young people have to feel that someone is listening to them and to their point of view; this will go a long way to enhance their belief in politics. Specifically if young people were able to vote at 16, be able to fully participate in the East Riding Youth Assembly, and have the opportunity to connect with their elected Councillors, MPs and MEPs - then we might just see more engagement of young people in the political process.

(School photo by Paul Harrop)

Link to the East Riding Youth Assembly: i

Link to Wolfreton School:


Anonymous said...

Whilst having a broad agreement that young people should be included in decisions effecting their future I am not certain that this process should be expanded ever downward in the age groups. From my own memories, I was in no way ready to make reasoned political decisions at the age of 16 and even at 18 some of my opinions were naive and insular. It was only in my twenties that I started to think outside my own bit of the world.
I suppose what I am saying is that we should listen to young people but be prepared to make decisions which may not always suit their opinions at the time. Society is a wide band of people of a range of ages, all of who have needs, opinions and earned rights. Politicians would do well to remember that they represent and serve the people, they are not the masters of the people.

Anonymous said...

Everyone (especially the council) should think about how their decisions will affect young peoples lives. At least consider their opinions (and acknowledge that they exist). Young people in the East Riding work really hard to get their voices heard, and participate to improve the lives of thousands of young people across the county.

Here is a councillor who is highly involved with East Riding Youth Service and cares about young peoples issues.
And 16 may be too low an age to make an informed choice and cast your vote. So my belief is that there should be political education in schools. But don't ever ignore the voice of young people...because in the East Riding they definitely have a strong voice. Young people deserve to have a say in issues that affect them (it's rather simple!).

Anonymous said...

I was brought up in a family where we were treat as individuals, encouraged by close and extended family to hear their stories and history. Through that dinner table talk I formed some opinions and ideas of my own and could discuss them. I watched crusty TV programmes (debates and old presenters) like Panorama and started to make informed decisions. I feel I was ready at 16 to make an informed decision at general and council elections. I was working at 16 and contributing NI and tax so thought I had an investment.
I felt our town MP and councillors were people to look up to and put service before self. I am unsure that many young people feel that today. Anon