How to Raise Your Kids to be Voters
If you're a parent, you might be wondering how the upcoming election will affect your children and your family. We don't blame you! We here at Tesa Babe are wondering the same thing. As mothers of adult children, we also wonder if we've done a good job as parents in raising voters.
The thing is, we raised our children in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s when things were simpler. We struggle to imagine the challenges that parents of today have in teaching their kids about politics and voting.
We, as a team of concerned mothers, have done some reading up on the current issues surrounding today's political climate and how it may be affecting the youth. Putting our heads together, we created what we hope is a useful list of things to consider when teaching your little ones about voting.
Teach them that their voice counts
Not only will this help encourage children to become voters when they grow up, it will also help them feel safe and secure in the world, knowing that they can make an impact. Demonstrate for them how laws and elected officials impact the world around them and teach them to use their voting rights to help shape that world.
Teach them about government
Illustrate for them the basics of how democracy and the government works. This can become complicated (truth be told we get confused often about the intricacies of our democracy). Luckily there are plenty of child-friendly online resources that help demonstrate our system of government in a fun and educational way.
Teach them to tell real news from fake news
When we were young, we didn't have this problem. We went to school in a time before the internet, when we actually had to conduct research through library books! We never had to wonder if the facts in these published books were true or not. And while the internet is a fantastic educational tool for children (infinite information at one's fingertips!) it is also a place filled with false information - sometimes masked as the truth. This becomes a serious problem when voting on the future of the country. Unless things change in the future, the children of today will have to learn how to tell real news from fake news. Here's how you can start:
First, define fake news. Make sure they know it's news that's made up, not news they disagree with. Then make sure they look for reliable news sources with experienced and trusted journalists. See if the articles use links to verified studies and reports.
Second, teach them to sort fact from opinion. For example, you can show comparisons of factual news items with movie reviews.
Third, encourage investigation. If they see a piece of news on their social feeds, encourage them to ask what the source is and to verify it elsewhere.
Fourth, create a home environment of news literacy. For example, bring up relevant current events around mealtimes and discuss together as a family. There's also an opportunity here to encourage skepticism over cynicism, positivity over pessimism, and open-mindedness over extremism.
Teach them to research the whole ballot
While it is of the utmost importance to vote on the leader of the country, that's not the whole story. During the presidential election, citizens have the opportunity to vote on other officials as well as on constitutional amendments and new laws. Teaching your kids that they have a voice in these decisions will help them create the kind of world they want to live in.
Teach them to think for themselves
I just watched The Social Dilemma the other night… if you haven't seen it, seriously go watch it now! It details how the algorithms in our search engines and in our social media lead us down click-bait rabbit holes in order to keep our attention. So if you like to shop for shoes (and who doesn't?) your algorithm will learn this about you and keep showing you ads about shoes. Likewise, it can learn your political inclinations and will fill your feed with posts relating to those inclinations. Since the goal is not to inform you but rather to keep your attention, you may start to see posts that become more extreme, or information that isn't entirely true.
As adults, most of us can all remember a time before the internet, before social media and smartphones. But the children of today don't know anything different. It's important that the children of today know that what they're being shown on their screens is not necessarily useful information, but rather click-bait to keep their attention. When deciding who and what to vote on, it's best to do their own independent research rather than taking for fact everything that shows up in their feed.
Teach them to keep an open mind
Whether you lean right or left, one thing we can all agree on is that this country has become extremely polarized. And here I'm going to reference The Social Dilemma again (sorry guys, I'm obsessed!) Because our individual social feeds are tailored uniquely to each and every one of us to hold our attention, it means that every single one of us is being presented a different set of facts and a different reality. We no longer see eye to eye with our neighbors and we can't have sensible conversations anymore. Maybe we need a little more compassion for our neighbors, maybe we need some understanding that our technology is polarizing us, and maybe the best thing we can try to do is find common ground. At the very least we can teach our children to listen with open minds and to respond thoughtfully.
Take them to the polling booth with you
This is something I used to do with my kids! There's no better way to teach them firsthand the importance of voting than to show them that mommy and daddy take it very seriously. And don't worry, it's legal to take your kids into the booth with you!
We hope that this was useful and enlightening. If you have any thoughts or other suggestions we would love to know! Don't hesitate to comment in the comments section below.