Our current political climate is ever-changing, with important causes receiving more attention than ever largely thanks to the growing influence of social media. As a teenager, it is easy to feel excluded from politics, even if you feel strongly about political issues. Historically teenagers have been excluded from mainstream politics, with barriers such as the legal voting age blocking their ability to have a voice. However, there are now many ways in which young people can easily and effectively become involved in the political system.
1. Sign Petitions
Possibly the easiest way to get yourself involved in direct democracy, signing petitions allows you to contribute to movements you care about and help them get closer to their goals. Websites such as change.org allow you to sign various petitions and receive updates on what you've shown an interest in. A key benefit of online petitions is that you can share them on social media with your friends and family, therefore raising awareness and hopefully helping the petition gain more signatures.
Despite being such a simple form of involvement in democracy, petitions can not only raise awareness of causes, but also lead to political leaders discussing and debating the subject in question. In the UK, if a petition gets 100,000 signatures it will be considered for parliamentary debate. Therefore, petitioning may be an option to pursue if you want your political representatives to speak about your issue and push for real change within your legislative bodies.
And if there is no petition for the topic you are passionate about, you can also start your own petition, which is a great way to have a significant impact in politics as a young person. Thanks to the power of social media, you could potentially spark great interest in your chosen political issue and gain great support from so many people. Change.org is the world's largest petition website with over 200 million members, and anybody can start a petition for free - so, this is an easy and convenient way to push for political change.
2. Have discussions
Simple yet effective, sometimes you can satisfy your need to get political by engaging in important conversations with the people around you. Whether this be debating over the dinner table or discussing what you see on the news, talking to the people around you will not only be interesting and stimulating, but can also help you raise awareness and interest in the topics which you are passionate about. Although this may venture into argumentative territory at times, ultimately using your voice in this way will help you develop your own political ideas and maybe even help to encourage support for the issues you care about.
It can be a powerful thing to engage in these face-to-face conversations with people in your life; bringing the issues raised on social media into the real world is crucial if real social change is to be achieved. You can apply the things you have seen online to your reality, consequently sharing information and spreading awareness of important issues.
3. Go to protests
As a young person, attending protests is a powerful way in which you can show support for a cause. Protests exert mass pressure on political leaders and command media attention by their very nature, making this an effective way to make your opinions heard. There is a lot of information available online regarding how to stay safe at protests.
Some protests have been able to achieve significant social and political changes. For example, the Stonewall Riots of 1969 led to gay rights movements in the USA and around the world, paving the way for the LGBTQ+ rights that exist today. It is clear that protests can result in significant successes, and getting involved in them is a great way to show your support and be a part of something huge.
4. Join a group
Whether this be a political party, a pressure group or a club at your school or college, joining a political group can be a fun and engaging way to get involved in politics as a young person. Within a group, you will have the chance to meet likeminded individuals who share your passions and interests, allowing you to engage in political conversations and events.
If there is a particular issue that you have in mind, use the internet to research local groups you can join to get involved in the cause. The cause for climate change action is a clear example here, as the movement has focused around young people fighting for their futures and the futures of generations to come.
5. Use social media
When used in the right ways, social media has the potential to be a positive force for change, particularly for political causes. With a few clicks you can have a world of information at your fingertips, allowing you to research the topics that interest you and deepen your knowledge and understanding of particular political issues. Using social media, you can voice your political opinions online and discuss politics with a variety of people.
Social media has grown in recent years, becoming a particularly prominent means of political involvement. This has been evident recently, as the Black Lives Matter movement has acquired immense support online in the wake of George Floyd's murder, the video of which was widely shared on social media. Information and resources regarding the BLM movement and subsequent protests have been shared vastly, reflecting the power of social media in supporting campaigns. And online political conversations are often dominated by young voices, making social media a great and convenient way in which you can get involved.