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Teen Matters

Why Don’t Young People Vote?

March 28th, 2012

Teaching Kids The Importance of Participation

By: Mary Jane McKittrick

A discouraging amount of young people aren't voting during elections, and Mary Jane McKittrick recognizes that this needs to change.

“I believe that children need more than just a history lesson about democracy,” says McKittrick, a former broadcast journalist who studied speech communication in college. “I think they need to be shown how the democratic process works and how people can make changes locally and around the country by raising their voices and availing themselves of their rights as citizens in a free and democratic society. More than that, I think parents should be more conscientious about teaching the importance of voting from a young age, so that it is a right and an action that kids look forward to taking. Our power in the voting booth is the single most significant individual power we wield as citizens and it’s a right that many around the world don’t possess. We should teach our kids to value it and to use it wisely.”

McKittrick suggests parents can help teach their kids about democracy by doing the following:

  • Vote – It’s difficult to teach your child about the election process if you don’t vote. You should make a point to vote, and when age-appropriate, bring your children with you when you do. If you vote via absentee ballot, show your child the form and explain how important it is to make sure your vote counts.
  • Connect Laws to Their Lives – Children may not have a frame of reference for how a law is passed, but they encounter government in action practically every day. When there is road construction on the way to school, it represents tax dollars being spent to improve the community. When a new playground opens, or old equipment is replaced with new equipment, it can be traced back to the local government. When they see campaign signs all around during an election cycle, it’s another opportunity to explain what it’s all about.
  • Don’t Talk Politics, Talk Issues – Politics can be boring for kids, and they may not have a frame of reference for it. But issues, like whether the school year should be longer or why they take standardized tests at school, can be discussed easily because it’s relevant to their lives. Ask questions like “Do you think it’s fair that the rules are this way?” or “If you could make the rules, what would you do?” It will get them thinking and caring about democracy and their role in it.

Mary Jane McKittrick is the creator, author, producer and publisher of the Boomer and Halley books for ages 4-8. The books feature Boomerang, an Australian Shepherd dog, and Halley's Comet, a silver streak of a cat. The stories teach core values in a fun-filled way. McKittrick is a former broadcast journalist and holds a dual Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts and Speech Communication.


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