Op-Ed: Are Young People Treated as Second-Class Citizens in Society?

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Thanks to the Internet and modern technology, young people have lots of opportunities to achieve their dreams and become successful. They’re informed, capable, driven and skilled, and should be able to shape their own futures. For example, there’s a 14-year-old working as a software engineer at SpaceX. But young people face limitations, as they’re treated like second-class citizens in today’s society.

Until eighteen, people don’t enjoy the basic rights adults have. Their rights are taken away under the guise of protection. For example, minors can’t open up a bank account in their own name; own a credit card or have a credit history; take out loans; invest; work full-time; vote in elections; own property; consent to medical treatment; and, when they travel alone, they’re considered “unaccompanied minors.” That doesn’t sound like having freedom. Even child stars in Hollywood had to fight for financial independence from their restrictive management or parents. For example, Corey Feldman, known for his roles in “Gremlins,” “The Goonies” and “Stand by Me,” said that, at 15, he filed for emancipation from his parents due to the alleged theft of his $1 million earnings from his early career.  

In the past, many young people completed their formal education around 14 or 15, started working at 16 and established families at 18 in most industrialized countries. Now, most young people only finish college or university in their mid-20s. So, young people are beginning their adult lives a lot later and, thus, have less time to become wealthy and support a family.

The view that many adults have of young people, which is that they’re immature, dumb and need to be controlled, needs to be challenged. If you’re under eighteen and make your own money, it doesn’t make sense for your bank account to be under your parents’ names. Why can young people go to school for eight hours, but not work for eight hours? Policies limiting young people just because of their age are discriminatory and wrong. In dystopian books, it’s always young people who save the day. But, in real life, they’re never given the chance to have their voices heard.

On top of these restrictions, young people are expected to pay a huge 12.4% Social Security tax on their earnings (taking into account both the employer and employee portions), paying for seniors’ retirement. Retirees had their whole lives to save up money, and if they don’t have enough left to support their retirement, why should young people have to pay for their mistakes? We should be investing in the future, not the past.

Age-based restrictive laws and policies are discriminatory and should be reevaluated. How come you’re only allowed to have legal rights when you’re an “adult” at eighteen? Minors deserve to work and control their finances, too. You shouldn’t need to wait until a certain age to participate in society. Many young people are very intelligent and shouldn’t be trapped in school like a daycare baby instead of building a life for themselves.