How teens interact with politics on social media
February 15, 2023
Hands In - The actions of Westfield youth on social media bring people together to share their political support.
Teen activism on social media has become widespread post-quarantine, remaining a constant trend in Westfield.
Social media has become the primary source of news for younger kids. According to Common Sense Media, 54% of kids get their news from either Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. During quarantine in 2020, youth spent a lot of time on social media, learning about African American history and climate change, according to Suffolk University.
In 2022, one in 10 teens said they have encouraged their peers to take initiative on political issues that are important to them, according to Pew Research Center. Psychology and U.S. History teacher Ms. Alexa Sucharetza shared her thoughts on teens and politics.
“Quarantine was very polarized,” Ms. Sucharetza said. “Different Presidents from different parties oversaw it. I think whether students are aware of it or not, being on social media they were probably exposed to pretty polarizing things, and I think kids got more involved.”
Myles Yates (10) said he often sees his friends posting about politics as he scrolls through Instagram.
“A lot of my friends and a lot of people I know… post a lot of stuff about [politics]... when I scroll through Instagram and everything,” Yates said. “It makes me happy to see that. It makes me happy that people are more aware and getting more involved… it was a good thing to see everyone participating and showing what they stood for.”
Additionally, Ms. Sucharetza said that she thinks kids are more open-minded, explaining how it’s important that kids get involved in politics at a younger age.
“You should never believe something just because someone tells you to,” Ms. Sucharetza said. “I think you should do your own research, and I think it’s great for kids to do that.”
Yates mentioned that he’ll only research bigger issues that he hears about. He did his own research when he first heard about Trump supporters storming the capital in January 2021.
“When the Trump supporters stormed the Capital… people were comparing how the police handled that compared to BLM supporters,” Yates said. “They did peaceful protests, but they [the police] pepper-sprayed people. They robbed people; they arrested people. They did all this, yet the Trump supporters had a terrorist attack basically because they stormed the Capital. The police decided to take way more action than they did during the Capital.”
Yates said that social media has made people more aware of what’s going on in the world. Equity Club President Issy Grady (12) agreed that it is crucial to promote political involvement among peers, but only if there are actions that come with the words.
“I don’t think that [posting] really makes a difference because I feel like if you want real change you can talk to people in real life,” Grady said. “You can do other methods of advocacy [such as] protests and going to rallies. You can show your support other ways other than posting.”
There have been a few rallies in Westfield since quarantine, such as the rally on September 3, 2021, regarding the return of pride and Black Lives Matter flags. Ms. Sucharetza says that kids are willing to take action because they are more open-minded.
“When you’re younger you are more willing to cover all your bases and not put yourself in a box,” Ms. Sucharetza said. “You look for evidence you agree with and evidence that challenges the way you think.”