Since the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement’s followers have begun advocating for many reforms: de-funding the police, eradicating symbols of America’s racist past, and lowering the voting age to sixteen. Teens are now using social media to gain awareness for issues of social injustice across America. The United States’ younger population is becoming incredibly vocal and conscious regarding global conflict. Despite the recent attempts to empower the youth, the voting age should remain at eighteen-years-old.
This group—while many are responsive and sensitive—is often incapable of making well-calculated decisions. By age fifteen, most teens develop adult cognitive abilities. Hence, by sixteen, teens should solve complex problems and develop understandings of the world. However, most sixteen-year-olds do not have the same life experiences as adults. Many children at this age are financially dependent, and they have not pursued full-time jobs. There are still teens that drop out of high school to work, but this was only 5.4% of high school students in 2017. Candidates running for elected positions often discuss policies referring to taxes or social security, and it is difficult for high school teens to develop opinions on these policies as most are yet to experience a work environment.
College students are financially dependent, and college campuses do not provide the same experiences as a work environment. While this is a fair comparison to high school students, only 70% of high school graduates go to college, and nearly 85% of teens across the US will graduate from a public high school. If the voting age remains at eighteen, a larger body of voters will have real-life experiences when compared to sixteen and seventeen-year-olds. Sixteen-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds have similar thinking abilities, yet young adults have life experiences that are more applicable to an election, whereas high school adolescents have a more narrow view of the world.
Social media allows teens to spread awareness for issues across the nation, yet these platforms can also endorse unreliable information. Social media brings attention to issues in the US, but social media is often biased and untrustworthy. Just 2% of teens read the newspaper regularly, but they spend six hours a day on social media. Highschoolers are attracted to Instagram and Snapchat, but these media sources may be the least trusted news sources. These applications are attractive because posts use grasping images and minimal text to invite users. These posts can easily be shared on others’ accounts to gain attention from hundreds of followers. However, with little text comes minimal context. Too often, these posts fail to mention important details that other news sources mention. Anyone can post about issues on social media, but this means that those with false information can share their opinions. Social media can be effective in raising awareness for issues across the US, but well-known news sources such as The New York Times, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal hire educated writers and journalists that publish facts, rather than biased information. There is still conflict between news sources such as CNN and Fox News, but either source is more reliable than social media.
Many teens are yet to develop unique opinions based on valuable life experiences, but eighteen is still the ideal voting age. Eighteen-year-olds prepare for life after high school—working, applying to college, etc. Whichever path an eighteen-year-old decides to follow, they will gain critical experiences. These include how to pay taxes, how to choose a place to live or work, and which career to pursue. These moments in teen life shape one’s understanding of the world. These experiences are where political opinions can be formed. Additionally, nearly 76% of college students receive their news from online newspapers. Young adults over the age of eighteen are likely to appreciate trustworthy news sources, yet high schoolers subscribe to Instagram rather than The New York Times.
Teens are taught to be global citizens that are conscious of issues across the world. While high schoolers try to educate themselves on crises, they are too easily influenced by social media. Even those who have access to trustworthy news sources do not have the life experiences that shape one’s political views. Eighteen-year-olds are more educated on politics and current events, and this age group is more capable of developing educated political opinions. High schoolers can be mindful citizens, but their beliefs will not be well-justified unless they acknowledge unbiased and professional news instead of social media.
If social media did not easily sway teens, their views would be more reliable, and teens would be enfranchised. However, until this change is made, it is infeasible to lower the voting age as teenagers’ views are rarely influenced by reliable information. Their lack of real-world experiences distracts their development of focused political scopes.
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“Inside Higher Ed.” What the Data Show about High School Students' Expectations of Going to College, www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2019/07/08/what-data-show-about-high-school-students-expectations-going-college#:~:text=The%20percentage%20of%20students%20enrolling,was%2069.8%20percent%20in%202016.
“Public High School Graduation Rates.” The Condition of Education - Pre Primary, Elementary, and Secondary Education - High School Completion - Public High School Graduation Rates - Indicator May (2020), nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp#:~:text=(Last%20Updated%3A%20May%202020),first%20measured%20in%202010%E2%80%9311.
Concha, Joe. “Study: Only Two Percent of Teens Read Newspaper, One-Third Have Not Read Book for Pleasure in Last Year.” TheHill, 27 Aug. 2018, thehill.com/homenews/media/403827-study-only-two-percent-of-teens-read-newspaper-one-third-have-not-read-book-in#:~:text=A%20study%20released%20Monday%20shows,pleasure%20in%20the%20last%20year.
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