A new reality is setting in around the world as more people are practicing social distancing, isolating themselves within their homes and accepting that Things have changed. Among those people are children and youth today.
Not merely passive actors in this gigantic play, young people are finding their schools shut for uncertain amounts of time; parents at home and out of work, or working from home; and the looming threat of a virus killing family members, neighbors, teachers and others they know and care about.
Unfortunately, the media is taking this as an opportunity to paint young people with a wide, negative brush. They are assaulting children and youth with hyperbole, dismissing them with adultism and demeaning them with plain hatred and antipathy.
What It Sounds Like
For example, today, the Wall Street Journal alerted its readers to a fictitious impending generational war brewing over coronavirus. The Washington Post is using hyperbole to club people over the head that children might be secret agents for COVID-19. The Boston Globe is framing young people as schoolhouse marms who are scolding their parents. In Canada, youth are being pinned as carriers attacking adults, too.
Advocates for youth, including those of us who care about youth voice, youth involvement, youth empowerment, youth activism, youth leadership and any form of giving a damn about young people, have to be attentive right now to all these damning perceptions. They are not reality, and they will harm young people today and into the future.
I would suggest the tone being set right now is will shift the culture long into the future. For more than two decades, we’ve made progress with adults perspectives of young people leading positive social change. In recent years, this has become more pronounced with youth leading massive movements for social change.
However, given the threat that viewpoint poses to the adultocracy that dominates our daily lives, there will surely be a backlash. Unfortunately, I believe we’re seeing that emerge right now, and more pronounced than ever before.
What To Do
Adultocracy—A governing system that assumes power should be concentrated in the hands of adult members of society; the collection of obvious and unobvious tools adults use to impose their authority, domination and superiority over children and youth.—Freechild Institute Glossary
Adult allies to young people have to stand up with and for young people right now. We have to message on social media, promote in our online workspaces and otherwise communicate to our coworkers, our friends and family, politicians and others three essential messages:
- Young people are not the problem; they are the solution;
- Adults need to support young people with attitudes, words and actions right now, and;
- Organizations need to stand with youth as allies more than ever before.
By focusing on deliberate support for young people right now, we can continue to move forward in our society with young people providing essential wisdom, ideas, action and outcomes. Without this focus, we might lose the ground we’ve gained for all these years of struggle.