“Just. So. Much. News.”
“Why is it always BREAKING?”
“Why is everyone YELLING?”
“Why should I even listen?”
We know. Oh, middle school girls...we know. We tell you to be informed, and then we sit you in front of split screens of interrupting adults. We urge you to follow current events and your newsfeed overflows with anger and outrage. Substance gets overtaken by snark and headlines become hashtags before you can even read the original article.
You want to be the girl who knows what’s going on.
But it’s hard to do when the information flow is never-ending and polarizing to the point that your-dinner-table-will-actually-freaking-explode-if-anyone-brings-up-the-news.
So you stay quiet, avoiding words like investigation, peace talks and climate change. You scroll past the tirades in all-caps, resting instead on safer posts about #NationalTacoDay. We get it. We love tacos too.
But here’s the thing...
We know you care about the world around you.
Research from Common Sense Media tells us that following the news is important to kids today, and we see it in our own homes. We feel you reading shyly over our shoulders and see you glance up surreptitiously when updates crawl across the screen. And we beam to know that the wheels in that bright head of yours are turning, because curiosity is flickering. Ideas are forming.
What we want to tell you is this:
The world is big.
So make sure that the well of information you draw from is big too.
When you watch the news, try to watch a variety of news sources, not just the channel your family watches. When you research world events for homework, branch out and read across a multitude of platforms, not just the media found in your classroom. When you listen to experts, listen to as many different voices as possible, not just those held captive in the bubble of your twitter feed.
Because, here’s the inside scoop...your parents’ views on an issue might not necessarily be your views. And your teacher, even your favorite one, might have an opinion that doesn’t exactly match up with yours on a particular topic.
Girls, that’s okay.
Diversity of thought is good.
Varied perspectives are important.
Being well-informed in today’s day and age means seeing the big picture, seeking out reliable facts and listening to smart people. Like, lots of them. You don’t have to agree with a view to learn from it, and a deep bench of opposing ideas can help clarify your own beliefs.
No, the volume doesn’t have to be turned all the way up and yes, certain language should be avoided. But by middle school you know name-calling when you hear it and you know how to tune it out.
The point is to focus on the issues and decide what resonates with you. Gaining independence at this age isn’t only about chores and privileges. It’s about developing independent thought and cultivating core beliefs.
Yep, this is all part of growing up.
And you are coming of age in a critical time.
Important decisions are being made around the world that will matter to you - think education, health care, basic human rights - and age-appropriate resources are out there to keep you and your friends squarely in the loop. In the know. In a position to argue for fairness and fight for justice when you are ready.
Listen to it all, girls.
Resist the urge to hit mute or scroll forward. You can’t be truly informed if you only listen to stuff that sounds familiar. Be brave enough to seek out media with a fresh outlook and people with thought-provoking views. You’re smart. You’re figuring out what you believe.
And your time is coming.
So be that girl.
The one who who listens to everyone...but knows her own mind.