When Kids Rock the Vote: Tech Educates, Unifies

Now that the elections in the U.S. are over, I am inspired by the culmination of what was a tedious, arduous, sometimes aggravating process. I am inspired because in the end, my daughter, who is nine, became engaged, excited and encouraged about the process and the result.

In California, we had a number of important propositions on the ballot, and my daughter was actively consuming information – on TV, the web and with friends and relatives – to do her best to understand the issues and decide what she thought was right for our state and our nation.

Wonderfully, our local County Board of Elections sponsored a “Kids Vote” at the polling places. They provided kids with ballots and then announced the results of the Kids Vote on their web site. Katie spent all day yesterday waiting for the results.

When we went to the polling place, we brought one of her friends with her. As they poured over the ballot, I was amazed to hear my daughter explain each proposition to her friend. I had no idea how much my kid had picked up. She had spent time on the Internet learning and even the Weekly Reader had helped her think through the issues.

We have a rule in our house – you are entitled to your opinion and it can be different from others – but you have to do your own critical thinking to justify your position. My daughter took that advice to heart and used the tools we have – most of them technology-based – to make up her mind in the election.

And thanks to a shared medium – the television – we sat together on Tuesday night as history was made. As we watched people all over the world share in an event that we can only hope will lead us all positively into the future.

I write a lot about kids, technology and relationships and this election was proof that these things can come together to help us think, connect and share.

Wrist Strong with Stephen Colbert on Our Trip to Washington DC

I read a headline today that caught my attention, “How Do People Find the Time to Watch Television?” Boy, I ask myself that all the time. I should quickly tell you that this great headline was in a blog I read called TechDirt which is a hot read of you like tech, law and culture. Anyway, back to television.

The point of the article was about a shift we are all making from passive media to interactive media. For me, it really is the difference between having content spewed at you and actually finding a way to make it personal and relevant to your life. And as I thought about it, this is what’s been happening around our house. It’s totally cool and I have a very recent example!

My eight year old daughter has been very engaged with this year’s election. Like so many of her older peers, she loves Obama and really wants him to win. Her interest in politics has been nourished by the media (we watch Good Morning America during breakfast). We decided to turn it into a trip to Washington DC for spring break. With her growing interest in government and the process, it seemed like a natural fit.

In DC, we spent a great deal of time in the Senate buildings – did you know there are three? – and visited Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton’s office. The staff in both offices were very kind and open to having a family drift in and check things out. Katie was truly excited to be that close to the candidates. It made something she has seen on television very real.

Signing Barack’s book was memorable.

Clinton’s office is a beautiful butter yellow. Very feminine.

We also stopped at the National Portrait Gallery – a place we might have missed if it hadn’t been television – because we had to see a very important portrait. No, not George Washington. Not Thomas Jefferson (have you ever noticed his profile looks remarkably similar to Steve Carell?). No this man focuses on “truthiness.” If you watch Comedy Central you know I am talking about Stephen Colbert.

Jefferson and Carell share a profile – can you see it?


Because she watches the occasional Colbert Report, she knew his portrait would be hanging near the bathroom in the National Portrait Gallery while we were there. So we added the Gallery to our itinerary and took a photo of her showing her Wrist Strong (her wrist was anything but – it was broken) with Stephen’s portrait. Once again, TV came to life.

When Colbert broke his wrist, he founded Wrist Strong! We salute him!


So what does this all mean? That my kid watches too much television? No, she really doesn’t but her mom is a current events junkie. What I think it does mean for today’s youth, the gap between what they see on television and what is real is much smaller. They might actually put TV more in perspective than what it was when I grew up. That interaction is an important component of their media experience – be it online or in person – and they believe they have the power to question, interpret and participate.

I bet these kinds of things are happening in your house too. Pay attention. See what you notice. And then please, share your stories.