The Truth About Youth Activism

Image: Mark Wallheiser

Image: Mark Wallheiser

Youth activism has been around for a while. However, many young people have began to find their voice now, largely due to the many social justice issues that have gained more attention among youth in the past years. Youth are here to change the world, and we aren't going anywhere. However, whether it be a parent, news anchor, or even an activist, you may hear a little different story if you ask an adult about youth activism and what that truly entails.

Technology is a huge part of daily life nowadays, and it often gets a lot of negative feedback, particularly having to do with millennials. These comments are usually centered around young people being lazy and spending all day on their phones, or heavy social media use. To sum it up, adults and even some young people, like to invalidate the use of technology, even when it is used for good purposes. Personally, I tend to frequently spend hours on a laptop. However, I’m not playing games or watching Netflix. In fact, just the opposite. It typically consists of sending emails, writing articles on a deadline, designing a website, or creating plans and materials for an upcoming project. Many adults work on laptops all day long for work, and are applauded for working hard. However, when a young person spends all day doing the same, even in relation to social justice or something positive and productive, they are relaxing, procrastinating, or wasting time. It's all a part of adults still not seeing youth as capable of doing the same things that they do.

But that doesn’t stop adults in the advocacy world from assuming young people like me to be knowledgeable about social media and technology. Yes, it’s true that social media and technology have evolved and are more common today, and that youth typically are more familiar with it than adults. However, young people are capable of more than just teaching adults how to use Instagram and Google Sheets.

In addition, the work of young people in advocacy is often seen as not important, simply because it’s not school work. It is seen as a choice and something that we aren't required to do. To be honest, that is partly true. No one is forcing us to put effort into making this world better. But if we don't do it, who will? People are dying daily of gun violence, police brutality, suicide, lack of access to healthcare and more, so someone has to do something to change the system.
So why is this an issue? Despite the many youth who have become involved in activism, young people are still seen as incapable and inferior to adults. In addition to that, what youth do in social justice work is commonly misunderstood as less than what it truly is. Young people have founded organizations, created brands, and worked countless hours to fight for our rights and strengthen laws. It means midnights at the capitol, designing graphics and logos, lots of research, and working with numerous organizations all at once.

To sum it up, social justice work is tedious and difficult to do, and many young people devote a large part of their lives to it. For the adults who are reading this, think twice next time you want to call young activists lazy or uneducated. We put a large majority of our free time into the work that we do, and in my opinion, it is way more important than work or school. Don’t invalidate a young person's work because it involves technology. Don’t disregard it because it’s not school work. Instead of finding excuses for why young people shouldn't do this work, commend young people for standing up for what they believe in and taking on more stress in addition to school to make this country and world better. Don’t look down on them and demean their work, especially if you don’t truly understand what they do. And if you don’t know what they do, ask them about it! Most youth activists are more than happy to explain what they are doing with different organizations, and it goes a long way to make an effort and learn what we actually do. Youth are the future and the now, and that isn't going to change. So support it, embrace it, applaud it, and help us youth on our mission to change the world.