A lot of adults use youth as sockpuppets, feeding them verbiage and giving them the issues adults expect them to address.
Intentional or not, this use of youth is designed to deceive the people who are listening to make them think what’s being said is authentic youth voice.
In a lot of places, sockpuppetry is often coupled with manipulation: If youth do what adults say, they’ll be rewarded; if they don’t follow expectations, they’ll be punished in some form. Youth often don’t know they’re being used to prop up an adult’s perspective.
Sometimes adults use youth to provide an alternate or opposite perspective to their own. This is called strawman sockpuppetry. Having no real authority to enact anything throughout society without adult approval, adults may deliberately position youth to say outlandish or contrary things, only to show their perspective as more valid, valuable, and important.
For the last 17 years, I’ve worked with the Freechild Institute to partner with organizations to deliberately position both traditional and nontraditional youth voice to be heard in safe and supportive environments, ensuring that youth speak for themselves and are treated as equitable partners with adults throughout society.
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