Kate Hawkesby: Why 16 year olds should not be voting

NewstalkZB Staff ,
Publish Date
Friday, 2 March 2018, 7:01AM
Voting Ballot Box (Photo \ Getty Images)
Voting Ballot Box (Photo \ Getty Images)

I note a new study from the American Medical Association Journal shows the number of teenagers sending and receiving sexts is on the rise. More than one in four teens had received a sexually explicit message, more than one in seven had sent one. The study mentioned the fact that teenagers are impulsive decision makers, often lacking maturity. Which leads me to Andrew Beecroft’s comments this week that we should give them the vote.

I speak from experience when I say 16 year olds should not be voting. Of our five children, three of them are 16 year olds. One of them.. perhaps two at a stretch, could make an informed, independent decision, but between them and their friends, I see enough evidence to warrant the ballot box being kept out of their reach for awhile longer.

Andrew Becroft is a widely respected, smart, and astute man. In his role as Children’s commissioner, having had a previous life amidst children dragged through the family court system, I would’ve thought he more than anyone would know the importance of allowing kids to be kids. 16 is still young. The kids won’t tell you that of course. At 16 they’re ready to take on the world, have opinions up the wazoo, think they know everything.. they’re ten foot tall and bullet proof. Until they’re not. Their brains are still developing, they’re not shaped by enough life experience to know what’s what, far less make valid choices around running the country. And don’t give me the ‘but they can drive’ argument. Have you sat in the car with a 16 year old teaching them to drive? I have, countless times. It’s scary, trust me. The fact the law says they should be on the roads doesn’t make it right. The fact the law says they can be having sex, doesn’t make it right either.

Kids don’t get much time to be kids these days, they’re plugged in globally to the worldwide web 24/7, they’re under enormous pressure socially, academically, physically.. look at anxiety levels in children these days, never higher.

So why would we want to add another pressure to their lives? And what makes you think a 16 year old, most of whom are still living at home, can be remotely impartial and independent? Young people are experts in apathy. Giving 16 year olds the vote would result in two things; one – they wouldn’t bother, two, if they did, they’d just tick the same box their parents had talked about.

How would that improve the system? You could count on one hand the number of teenagers who'd sit down and make informed decisions around political representation. In theory, in a perfect world, which is where a lot of this current governments decisions and ideas are made, yes, it would be lovely to think teenagers could be politically engaged and independent. But I don’t see it. The reality is, most teenagers would rather be out playing sport, with their mates, on their PS4, or rolling round the floor with the dog.. anything other than trawling through political pamphlets. Unless they start an online voting system which pops up automatically on teenager’s social media accounts replete with emojis.. or as a mix on their spotify playlist, teenagers simply aren’t going to bother with it. I vote we just let them be kids.


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