Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

More election coverage with Linda Ellerbee

lindaTwo weeks ago, over 2 million minors across the country logged on to nick.com to vote in the Kids Pick the President campaign. Obama came out ahead, but by a nose: With 51%, he had just 40,000 more votes than McCain. Nick kids have correctly predicted the winners in four out of the last five elections, so Barack should still be happy with his slim victory.

Linda Ellerbee, host of Nick News and spokesperson for the event, dished with Time Out Kids about this pint-size political movement and how to get your own kids excited about the upcoming election.

Why do you think Kids Pick the President is important?
The reasoning is simple: we don’t believe citizenship starts when you’re 18; it starts when you’re born. It’s essentially an early exercise in democracy. If we get them involved when they’re young, maybe they will stay involved as they get older. This year [there’s been] a HUGE increase in interest in the candidates.

Which candidate do kids seem to be more into?
I know that traveling around, a lot of young people are interested in Obama, because he’s new and he’s black and promises so much change. But a lot of young kids are totally for McCain and feel he’s about change too.

What issues are kids most concerned about?
They are passionate about the environment. Kids recognize how much damage has been done, and so I suspect that will be a huge issue going forward. In the last 18 years, they have seen the effects, not just the predictions. And recycling! Oh man, they can be so funny about that. It’s a good reminder for us adults to pay attention.

What are the best ways for kids to get involved in the November 4 election?
They can go onto their candidates’ websites and see if there is something they can do to get people to the polls, helping to get the elderly there or even going door to door to encourage [voting]. They can also call the [candidates’] headquarters and ask, “What can I do?” There’s plenty to be done, even by children.

How should parents bring up politics with their kids?
I think parents should talk to them, not lecture them. Involve them. There should be at least as much listening as there is talking. Ask them questions like, “Are you talking about this in class? What do you think?” And keep personal opinions to a minimum.

Do you think it’s possible for kids to form their own opinions on issues, or do they typically copy their parents’ views?
In many cases they [do follow their parents], but not all. We’ve been interviewing kids who are involved in the campaigns, and they tell us that it’s causing a stir in their households because they are for the opposite candidate as their parents. And there’s an assumption that all parents vote, which isn’t the case. Kids often exercise more of their democratic responsibility than their parents.

What’s the biggest thing you want kids to learn about the political process?
It’s in their best interest to learn about the government and those who would govern. That doesn’t mean you have to run for president, but just get involved. Democracy is a participatory sport. You don’t participate, you don’t get to complain.

Share your thoughts
  1. * mandatory fields