Is there ever such a thing as “too much” Youth Voice? I don’t think I’ll live to see that panned out, but for the sake of exploring the idea let’s take a look back at the phenomenom of oversharing. Its popularly used to described when someone gives too much information about any given topic, particularly in their personal lives. However, last week I was at a meeting where an adult suggested that having youth at conferences causes us to “overshare them,” and she was concerned that we didn’t want youth out there “too much. I just can’t stand to think of the kids being so bored with adult stuff.” This overt gesture towards protectionism and patriarchy was cloaked a deep adultism, the belief that exposing young people to “adult” topics and conversations automatically disengages youth or otherwise scars them. But the idea that young people themselves can be “overshared” is what bothered me most, and its where the adultism glares most at me.
Young people are not property or chattel to be controlled or metted out as an adult sees fit. The idea that someone can control when, how, where and why a young person shares their ideas, experiences, knowledge and wisdom is ludicrous and demeaning, to say the least. I understand the concept of “my youth” because I ran a lot of programs for children and youth. In a world where there are so many competing interests in the lives of youth its difficult not to serve as a protector in the lives of young people, particularly when they come from environments without appropriate adult figures in their lives. Its easy to develop that best intention and easy way of believing we know what’s best for them. I know that, because I have done that. But that doesn’t make it right all the time, and Youth Voice is one of those.
We have an ethical obligation to earnestly throw the doors open. Now, it takes time to ensure young people are prepared for what’s beyond those doors, including training and education and mentoring and all those things. But that’s for young people to decide with us, not for us to decide alone. The effect of oversharing on Youth Voice needs to be one of those learnings that young people help us decifer for themselves, not for us to decide for them. Let’s consider that in earnest before simply closing the door and hoping for no more.