What if Children Could Vote?
Tali Raviv, PhD
NCS3 Co-PI and Midwest Regional Site Co-Director
I recently attended a conference sponsored by the Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, an organization committed to promoting research and advocacy that fosters mental health and well-being. The Keynote speaker on the last day of the conference was Warren Binford, a children’s rights scholar and advocate. During her talk, she proposed a radical idea: to allow children and young people the right to vote. Whether or not this is a policy that I agree with, it did get me thinking: what would be different in our world if we listened to and respected young people’s imaginations, needs, and voices, and allowed them the power to influence our local and national policies?
I can say for certain that my 11-year-old would be voting for parties and politicians focused on environmental issues. She is devastated and terrified by the damage that is being done to our earth and communities due to climate change. My 8-year-old son might vote to establish and maintain safe public parks, green spaces, and, of course, soccer fields and basketball courts. My 14-year-old daughter might vote for more regulation to curb damaging social media messages targeting young women and girls, promoting unhealthy body image, setting unrealistic expectations for physical appearance, and emphasizing the importance of beauty above all else. And my 8-year-old daughter, whose friend and classmate is a transgender female, would likely vote for policies that would protect the rights of children and adults to receive healthcare that affirms their gender identities.
We are far from a world that will grant children the right to vote. However, as election day approaches, I am certain now more than ever that those of us who are of voting age have an obligation to consider not only what is right for adults, but what is right for the next generation in our voting choices. And if we truly want to achieve a more just world that promotes healthy development for all children, our homes and schools should start early to educate children on the power and responsibility of voting and provide opportunities for civic engagement. Be inspired by these resources for classroom lessons from Learning for Justice, and check out this book list about voting and elections for kids of all ages. And don’t forget to vote on November 8!