Here's What Every 17-Year-Old Needs To Know Before They Get Politically Active

3 Young People Protesting
Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

Politics is wild, isn't it?

It's always been important for teenagers to stay informed and stay woke. If you're 17 turning 18 in this wild political climate, it's more important than ever. 

If you're about to turn the big 18 and you're unsure of how to get organized and political, here are a few things you need to know. 


Register to vote.

Unfortunately, many people think when you turn 18, you're automatically entitled to vote. That's not true. Depending on where you live, you'll have to register with your county (enough time before the election) to make sure you have the appropriate permissions to cast a vote. If you're a citizen of the country you live in, all it takes is a few minutes to fill out and file the correct paperwork. 

If you're in the UK, here's where to apply to register to vote. 
If you're in the US, here's where to apply to register to vote.

Vote early and vote often.

Don't be one of those people who only votes when a President/Prime Minister is being chosen. Vote anytime there is something to vote on in your community. Elections that happen on a local level can have as much of an impact as ones that happen at a national level. 

I voted illustration

via iStock

Show up for the causes you care about.

If you have something that you're particularly passionate about, make sure to get involved online and IRL. Start a Gay Straight Alliance at your school, organize a local women's march, start a petition to enact important change. 

If you're not sure where to start, here are some international human rights organizations you can support online or with a small donation: 

Amnesty International
Global Fund For Women  
Malala Fund  
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association

Don't forget, if you don't have a local chapter of an organization or cause you care about, start it yourself. There is no rule that says you have to be 18 to be an activist or campaigner. 

If you're not sure how to do that, research how people your age got their start in local organizing.  

The legal stuff...

  • If you're 17 and thinking of going out to a protest, remember that the police have been known to question 17-year-olds without their parents' permission.
  • Another note on being arrested at a protest, colleges and universities can rescind acceptance offers for students with criminal records. Be careful out there, guys! 
  • We all tend to get emotional online but you need to be very careful about what you post and how you post it online. Never ever threaten a public figure or use any language that could be misconstrued as intent to cause bodily harm. 

Girl with her hands raised via Getty

Take care of your mental health.

One big thing that no one tells you about being politically aware is the toll it can have on your mental health. Every day there are news headlines that can cause fear, anger, and emotional anguish. The best way to combat that is by taking breaks from social media, chatting about positive change with like-minded individuals, and focusing on the positive outcomes of your political involvement.