EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — We are being inundated with political ads, mailers, and phone calls ahead of the midterm elections.
Some parents may want to shield their children from the discourse, but is that a good idea?
According to political scientists, engaging in political conversations or having your child join you in the political process by taking them to the polls or council meetings, are good steps in giving kids the tools to grow up to become active, responsible, and empowered citizens.
With the midterm elections right around the corner, it’s not uncommon to see neighborhood lawns strewn with political signs touting candidates running for offices, or attack ads on tv.
Although parents may want to shield their kids from hostile ads or angry debates, Dr. Joyanna Hopper, a professor of American politics and public policy at the University of Scranton says parents should not shy away from engaging in political conversations with their children.
“Framing things around these questions, why are elections important? Why do we need to consider the needs and wants of others? How do we evaluate candidates and policies, how do we root out information? These are conversations that can back us away from the volatility we see in politics,” said Dr. JoyAnna Hopper, Ph.D., University of Scranton.
In addition to conversations, having kids participate is key to engaging them in the democratic process.
“If you are deciding where you are going out to eat as a family maybe we can have a vote and explain why we are voting and why we should vote on this. You can have a conversation about why voting sometimes doesn’t go your way and that’s ok,” Dr. Hopper added.
While you may not want to discuss significant issues such as abortion, immigration, and the economy with younger children, teenagers may be ready to discuss these issues. But Dr. Hopper says it’s important that they learn to question the validity of the source.
“Should I believe this poll result? I need to know the margin of error, where is the poll coming from, do people self-select or are they selected randomly, these are things you can teach at the high school level,” Dr. Hopper continued.
When it comes to the role social media plays in elections, Dr. Hopper suggests reminding children they shouldn’t believe everything that they read.
“Looking at the quality of the source, making sure information is complete, that there aren’t parts being left out making sure information is not an outlier that it’s not radically different from other interpretations of a topic or a story and then self-reflect, what is my reaction and why,” Dr. Hopper explained.
Dr. Hopper suggests openly sharing your views with your child and discussing why they are important to you, but also encouraging them to develop their own political values. Dr. Hopper also says to openly share your views with your child and discuss why they are important to you.
By setting examples of how to think critically and modeling how to disagree respectfully you are helping your kids develop into curious responsible voting citizens.