"There is a discontent that I" sound and write like an adult. " And to this I can only say: do you not think that the 16-year-old can speak for herself? ”

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Grete Tundeberg is 16 years old; more than 800 thousand people have subscribed to her Facebook page, she has been nominated for the Nobel Prize, and Time magazine included her in the hundred most influential people in the world (in the same category as Donald Trump and Pope Rome). Greta created the movement “Fridays For Future” (“Fridays for the Future”), it also — “School strike for climate”. Every Friday, instead of going to school, she goes outside with a poster. Its goal is to draw the attention of politicians to the problem of climate change.

In fact, children in politics is not new. Samantha Smith was ten when she wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov: “I am very worried if a nuclear war will begin between Russia and the United States. Are you going to vote for the beginning of the war or not? ”In response, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU invited the girl to the Soviet Union. In 1983, Samantha traveled to the USSR, and two years later she died in a plane crash. After this, the return visit to the United States with the “mission of peace” was made by the Soviet schoolgirl Katya Lycheva.

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And even the Nobel Peace Prize, an underage girl has already received — in 2014 she was presented to Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yusufzai (at that time she was 17 years old). She led a blog, talking about the Taliban regime (the Taliban movement, banned in the Russian Federation), advocated access to education for women and almost died at the hands of terrorists.

Yet politically active children and adolescents raise many questions. We counted at least five.

What do parents think about it?

“I asked my mother to write a letter to Mr Andropov. After all, you need to find out why the world is so restless. And my mother said: “Why don't you write to him yourself?” And that's what I did. ” So began the story of Samantha Smith. If her parents had not helped her send a letter and would have regretted 40 cents for a postage stamp, perhaps this story would not have happened.

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Malalu Yusufzai's parents also supported: she was educated and began to publish diaries on the BBC website largely due to her father. But the parents of Greta Thunberg, she said, initially reacted to her ideas cool. But now they have written together a book about family life, they pay for their daughter’s trips and, according to some opinions, use her fame.

Valery Kasamara, Vice-Rector of the Higher School of Economics, the head of the student competition “I Am Professional” Valery Kasamara, explains that parents' attitude to the political activity of children depends on its nature. “If a young man becomes a supporter of a parliamentary party, parents are unlikely to see something bad in this,” she says. Unless there was a political discord in the family because of this (for example, the parents were always supporters of the Democrats, and the child went to the Communists). But if a child goes to unauthorized rallies, then there are many chances that parents will find out about it only when a child has a skirmish with law enforcement agencies.

Adults often consider that such children are engaged by someone. Is it so?

According to Greta Thunberg, she often hears that someone is standing up for her / paying her / using her. “But there is no one behind me but me,” she says.

Why do adults so often do not believe that children can advocate for some political ideas themselves, without the “tips” of their elders? “It’s hard for them to believe that a child can reason so that a child has enough knowledge, intelligence, and abilities,” says political scientist, director of the Institute for Applied Political Studies, Grigory Dobromelov. — Therefore, it seems to them that it was “invested” in such children. Dobromelov adds: these guys are really rare, this is a “piece goods”. And those adults who believe in the sincerity of these children, it is quite possible that they themselves have been interested in politics since childhood.

In addition, many parents themselves control their children as much as possible (they are escorted to school, check what time the child comes home), and are sure that everyone does this. “Therefore, when they see children who are somewhere“ without demand ”, it seems to them that the child could not do it himself,” says Valeria Kasamara. Finally, such children often cause irritation in adults. Roughly speaking, it infuriates the elders that someone “climbs across the bat”.

Of course, it happens that adults attribute to their actions any meanings of their own. Many remember Tanya, the “girl in pink” from Volokolamsk. Last year, she became famous in social networks after the rally for closing the “Yadrovo” landfill. Tanya pointed her finger at the Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyov and ran her hand over her throat. This gesture hit the video and became a meme. According to Tanya, she only had in mind that the test site is killing local residents, but in social networks it was called almost a symbol of protest.

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And, of course, the political views of children are not taken from nowhere. “I studied in elementary school, the year was about the 87th,” says Marina, 40 years old. — We had an essay on a free topic. And I wrote about the threat of war, that the fragile world and adults should protect it from nuclear “weapons” (and wrote, with an error). This is all "absorbed" from adults. My grandmother and grandfather always watched the “Time” program, and I clapped my one-year-old clapping hands when they showed congresses on TV. ” But this is still not an engagement, but rather the formation of views under the influence of the environment.

Why do children at all politics? And can they do something?

“What we are doing or not doing right now will affect my whole life and the lives of my children and grandchildren,” says Greta. The idea is clear: adults build a world in which children later live. But, according to Valeria Kasamara, this does not work in Russia: “We have a very short planning horizon. We live in the present, and this is not only about children, but about society as a whole. ” There are only a few children who seriously think like Greta.

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According to Kasamara, participation in political actions for children is rather an opportunity to declare oneself. “Of course, this is an opportunity to stand out and build a career,” agrees political scientist Grigory Dobromelov. “Such adolescents may well even manipulate the attitude of adults towards them.”

“Many teenagers sincerely think that they can change the world,” says Elena Morozova, an associate professor at the Department of Child Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the Russian Medical Academy of Continuing Professional Education. “And they want to improve it.” Teenage romanticism and naivety here bring only benefit. “Adults are burdened by their experience — it’s like a burden over their shoulders,” explains Dobromelov. “And he does not give an opportunity to think as a child thinks.” Valeria Kasamara adds: these guys really can make adults look at problems with different eyes.

Children and teenagers have one more advantage. A 16-year-old girl with pigtails, skipping lessons for the “school strike”, will seem sweet and touching to many. An adult person who escapes from work for the same purpose, in our eyes, will rather look like a city madman. Grigory Dobromelov believes that children and adolescents are well aware of how adults treat their activism, and can manipulate it. “But this is not frantic cynicism,” he adds.

What do adults do?

As Grigory Dobromelov says, in Russia now there is no systematic work with politically active children. And this is a problem. “If a child wants to engage in social and political activities, and he does not have such an opportunity, he can easily be captured by extremist views,” explains the expert. “He will decide: since he has no opportunity to be realized in the current system, it means that it must be changed.” So that children do not fall under the influence of manipulators, they need good mentors. According to Dobromelov, such a system worked in the USSR. “Yes, she had ideological specifics, but it was a system,” he says. “And if this ideological component is removed, it can serve as a model now.”

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Valeria Kasamara says that the majority of Russian teenagers are not ready to take seriously any responsibility. “We have fewer and fewer people who say:“ I will grow up and will be president, ”says Casamara. “This generation is free, creative, but at the same time very consumer-minded: they have always been taken care of, and they believe that this is how it should be.” But this does not mean that they do not need to listen and do not need to negotiate with them.

What to do if your child is interested in what you consider destructive or unsafe for him? The main thing is not to prohibit, psychologist Elena Morozova warns. “It will be worse — the child will go underground,” she explains. It is better to try to read the same literature as your child, and listen to what people who are authoritative for him say.

What political activity can a child lead to?

The possible consequences for the child can be varied — from the Nobel Prize to the attempted murder (or, as in the case of Malala Yusufzai, both). From national love (Katya Lycheva, who after Samantha Smith’s visit went on a mission to the United States, in the 80s they were ranked as “the most popular women of the USSR”, putting her on a par with Alla Pugacheva) to Heit (in Greene Tunberg called, for example , "Stupid shkoloty").

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Grigory Dobromelov believes that even a positive scenario can end up with a psychological trauma for a child. “If you give the child a Nobel Prize, then they will see in it not a child, but a Nobel laureate, and demand compliance with this status from him,” he says. “And an adult cannot always cope with this.” However, Malala Yusufzai, who will soon turn 22, seems to be doing well. In 2015, she opened a school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. But we know nothing about her possible psychological problems.

If a teenager is made a hero (often a hero of one day), and then forgotten, it can cost him dearly. “He has reached a peak, he wants further appreciation, attention, success. And there may be problems, ”says Elena Morozova. Namely — disappointment in oneself, in the world order, in relatives, who did not help him to live it peacefully and without serious consequences.

However, not all adolescent political activities lead to such extremes. And, as Valeria Kasamara says, it can become a good “school of life”: “This is an opportunity to learn how to talk and interact.”

According to Grigory Dobromelov, thanks to the development of technology, the policy is becoming less and less formalized. And it’s easier today for a child / teenager to be politically active than it was more than 30 years ago, when little Samantha Smith sent a letter to Yuri Andropov. And it is quite possible that the conditional “Gret Thunberg” will appear more and more.

Bella Volkova.

See also: Children who changed the world.

Chief editor of the blogFelix.

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