Teenagers sit in an uncomfortable area between childhood and adulthood. We are still in the process of stretching our wings, exercising our freedom, and endeavoring to make an active difference in the world. The world has many issues that could require our support. Even if we are still in high school or just started a semester in college, we can begin to support the fight against climate change, advocate for environmental protection, fight for minority rights, or other causes we feel deserve our support. The question is, where can we start? Thankfully, there are means for teenagers to take an activist role in the world.
Firstly, volunteering is the most powerful and direct tool a teenager has in supporting a cause. Volunteering for organizations like Red Cross, a pet rescue, or a wildlife reserve gives these nonprofits much-needed help. Moreover, collaborating with these organizations gives you more knowledge about the implications of their work. At some point, you can work in an even more important role in these organizations, where your actions can lead to greater impacts on the world. Volunteering is the most empowering activity a teenager can do. By dedicating your time to a worthy cause, you can develop the communication skills, teamwork, and knowledge to positively affect the world when you grow up.
However, some teenagers cannot volunteer, whether that’s because the organization is too far away, don’t have enough time, or other reasons like Covid-19. In that case, participating in political issues on social media respectfully can inspire other individuals and cultivate a teen’s ability to communicate and persuade others. Learning how to argue with others, collaborate, and persuade is important in achieving political action. Social media can function as training wheels for those skills. Through social media, one can grasp the opinions of differing perspectives and acquire ideas from others that you might want to support. It's important to scrutinize social media and what it tells you. While you can find great ideas from others on social media platforms, you can be influenced by biased posts. Social media can also be a very toxic place, so it's important to exercise restraint and respect when using it.
Teenagers who aspire to be activists should read the news voraciously. The news is a great way to start being acquainted with the political landscape and ideas. They will have to be knowledgeable if they want to advocate for a political action they believe is right. Read from as many sources as possible so long they are professional and unbiased. Read opinion articles from both sides. This will help build your platform and what kind of things you believe in and support. This will also help you understand the other side and better work with them in the future. A good activist is always an informed one, and reading the news is a good place to start.
Finally, contacting your representatives is an underrated tool in a teenager’s activist bag. Keeping our representatives accountable to our causes and respectfully protesting their actions can be powerful. This is enhanced even more if you can persuade your peers or your advocacy group to write more emails. Calling your representatives is another option and can be a great way to be more comfortable communicating with them. It may seem intimidating or infringing; it isn’t. So long you are respectful, informed, and well-intentioned, you can have a productive phone call with your local legislator or senator. Realizing that our representatives do not stand on a pedestal is important in mustering the courage to be an activist.
There are likely many other ways to be politically involved as a teen. However, volunteering, being involved in social media, reading the news, and contacting your representatives can be a great start. We must start exercising our growing freedom and maturity to support a meaningful cause so that when we grow up, we can be well-equipped to shape our world into a better place.